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Ask the Readers: Help me stretch our $200 per month grocery budget!

Today’s question is from Kari:

My husband and I recently started the Dave Ramsey program and we are halfway through baby step #2 (the debt snowball). I’m having a hard time with how much I should budget for grocery — and making that stretch for the whole month.

Can any of your readers share some ideas and/or cheap recipes for a family of 4 (our boys are 3 and 5) with a $200 monthly budget? I am doing a lot of freezer cooking, making a lot of rice meals, and using my bread machine like crazy, but I am having trouble with wanting to use meat but just cant afford it. We are already doing some meatless meals and I am buying my flour in bulk at Sam’s Club. -Kari

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  • Claire says:

    Visit farmer’s markets close to closing time. On the products left, they are more likely to cut a deal. PLus, it’s fresh and a good deal already!

  • I usually half the amount of meat I use and replace it with black or red beans, that way we still get flavor and protein, but save money on overall cost. 🙂

    • Debbie Yates says:

      Thats a great idea! Does it work for EVERY meat meal though? What about spaghetti?

      • I do this for tacos. You can always use a small can of chicken, a can of black beans and rice then season it all. It’s a little meat but it doesn’t seem like a little meat and it’s very filling.

      • Heather says:

        You can do spaghetti with no meat. Got me through college, among other things.

        • Nicole M. says:

          Or do spaghetti with less meat–I usually use 1/2 lb instead of 1 lb and it will stretch to two meals. Or make a large batch of spaghetti sauce with 1 pound of meat and use it for spaghetti one meal and save the leftover sauce for French bread pizzas or freeze for another spaghetti night.

      • Jenny in UT says:

        I love using only 1/2 the meat and substitute beans. And yes, I have done if for speghetti. I have enen done it for meatballs, though the first time I thought it looked a bit ugly. I now mash up the beans and mix it into the meatball mix.

        This goal can be done. I spend about $150/month on our family of 3.

        We also try to have at least one or two vegetarian dinners a week.

        And we have soup/stew/chili one night a week. Soup is hearty and cheap.

      • Sarah in Alaska says:

        You bet you can add beans to spaghetti. My husband loves taco spaghetti.

        • Starla says:

          Sarah, what is you taco spaghetti recipe if you don’t mind sharing????

          • Sarah in Alaska says:

            Uhm, it’s really dh’s recipe from one night getting creative in the kitchen. I think he substitutes taco seasoning for the basil and oregano in the sauce, adds a can of diced tomatoes, black beans and sliced black olives, if we have them. Then he adds the noodles to the sauce. I like it directly on the plate from there, but he’s been known to eat it in a flour tortilla.

            I thought it was the weirdest thing…and then someone told us that it had been on Nickelodeon! So, google taco spaghetti for a bunch of variations.

      • Bev says:

        I don’t use meat for spaghetti, I blend in black beans with my sauce or sometimes we just have sauce and spaghetti with cheesy bread as the protein source.

      • SHILO says:

        Hi– I haven’t tried black beans in spaghetti, but I have used lentils. Cook them soft and just add to your spaghetti, or if your kids complain about them(some of mine do) you can puree them and just add them to your sauce.

  • AK says:

    You may want to google “Hillbilly Housewife” for some grocery/menu plans that are quite thrifty!

  • Stephanie says:

    Do meatless meals that seem like meat, for example instead of just a bowl of beans make black bean burgers or chickpea burgers (with homemade buns) or sloppy joes with lentils. Keep side dishes very simple– frozen veggies are a good value because you have no waste with them and they are very healthy. Use potatoes in lots of ways. Watch the use of cheese too, it adds up very quickly.

    • Beth says:

      I think keeping it simple is key! I work hard to make foods with as few ingredients as possible–I used to have a cookbook that was a 5 ingredient cookbook, but now in retrospect 5 seems like a lot. If you have a main dish with 3-4 ingredients, then a side of 5 ingredients, it really adds up!

  • Gina says:

    Coupons – I have become addicted to coupons and making lists. They make going to the store so much easier because I only buy what I absolutely need and I gather coupons for those items before I head out the door. This site also is great for finding coupons for everyday things and bargains at various stores.

  • Amanda L says:

    If you can swing it, buy meat in bulk from a butcher or farmer. Half a cow or pig can go a long way. It’s a larger expense up front, but has greatly reduced out monthly budget. This doesn’t always work though, if you don’t live near a good farmer or don’t have the freezer space. Also consider cheaper cuts of meat that may be tougher and cook them in the crock pot or pressure cooker. I love whole chickens because they can work for several meals and usually have a great price on sale.

  • Laurie says:

    I am going to second the use of beans. We have cut our bill drastically using beans for most of our meals. When it calls for meat I usually do beans (like soups) or just almost all beans and just a tad meat. This is also so much healthier way of eating. Make sure you are buying your beans dry and soaking and cooking them yourself and not using canned. Basic tortilla and bean burritos wrapped up in bulk are great! You can use some cheese but since you are making them you can limit how much to put on there!

    • Nicole M. says:

      I agree with Laurie! I use dried beans a lot and add a little bit of meat. Example for tacos, burritos, soups I use maybe 1/2-1/4 pound of ground beef because I am using beans to fill the protein. I buy 5 or 10 lb of ground beef when its on sale and take it home and brown it all together and divide it out. It stretches 5 pounds of ground beef to 10 meals (1/2 pound each) and saves money plus its already in the freezer ready to be added to meals quickly. I know I won’t be able to do this forever but my kids are 8 and 4.

      • Nicole Taylor says:

        I also add cooked lentils and even my picky eater doesn’t notice. Plus, in taco meat, I add frozen corn to bulk it up. When I start, my pan doesn’t look like much, but by the time I add beans, lentils, and corn, I’ve got a full pan and everyone feels like they are eating a taco (or haystack) full of meat!

  • Karen Kline says:

    I started this month to feed just my husband and I on $200 a month. I’m finding it hard doing it for 2 but I would be glad to share some of what we are doing. We try to have one meatless meal a week. I have a vegetarian taco salad recipe that is good and we stretch our meat by making casseroles or by adding beans or rice. We try not to use processed foods and make our own mixes using ingredients from the pantry. If you are on pinterest, you can find a lot of articles and recipes there. Crockpots are good for cooking the cheaper cuts of meat.

  • Chelsea says:

    About a year or so ago, we were really tight on cash, and I was able to feed my family of three for $50 a week. So, just know, it’s possible! However, we did end up eating a lot of the same things over and over. I swear by the $6 bags of frozen chicken breasts – I cook them up as little pieces and they last for about 3 meals. I also use a lot of pasta. One of my favorite recipes is Campbell’s chicken pot pie. It’s delicious, filling and cheap. Good luck with your grocery adventure!

    Ingredients: 1 cup cubed, cooked chicken breast
    1 can cream of chicken soup
    1/2 bag (8 oz) frozen mixed veggies, thawed
    Pancake mix (I use complete so all I need is water, otherwise you’ll need the eggs you mix in)
    Directions: Mix up the chicken, soup and veggies in a pie plate. Mix pancake mix in separate container, pour over chicken mix. Cook at 350 for 30 min.

  • Jennifer Ott says:

    We have a budget of $200 for our family of 6, so it can be done! Before I used Bountiful Baskets and Azure, I stuck to that budget for a year with just local stores. We eat mostly vegetarian meals now though. We ate spaghetti at least once a week, lots of carrot sticks and whatever produce is on sale, oatmeal nearly every morning, and eggs for supper frequently! I will say that our produce varies a lot more now, but it took getting used to the budget first before I explored the options of Bountiful Baskets and Farmer’s Markets. Soups are cheap, and so are potatoes! Make chili one night (great meat-stretcher), then serve it over baked potatoes another night.

    • Andria says:

      Great idea using eggs as an alternate protein source. I sometimes forget about eggs 🙂 Also, sometimes repetitive meals are just the most frugal choice and kids don’t mind eating the same stuff over and over as much as we think!

      • Jessica says:

        My boys and I love eggs, but my husband hates them. :-/ Otherwise, I would have them for dinner happily.

        • Jessica Valentino says:

          If you have a little bit of leftovers that is enough to feed one person but not the whole family, that might be a good time to make eggs for you and the kids and let your husband finish the leftovers.

    • Heather says:

      Jennifer has great ideas. We eat eggs with tomato(canned or fresh) over rice with some soy sauce. My husband takes leftovers for lunches. Oatmeal bought in bulk at Costco. We make our own veggie broth with veggie trimmings saved. This brought gets turned into soup or sauces. Tonight we are eating a bean dish. dry black beans that have been soaked and cooked mixed with canned corn, rice, sauteed onion and carrot. I will mix in salsa and avocado. This will be eaten with corn torillas and a veggie. Mac and cheese can be made healthier with canned tuna and some veggies added. I second the chili idea with ledtovers going over potatoes. Make a point of not wasting food. Challenge yourself to see what needs to be used up in the frig to makes meals. Pasta, potatoes, beans, rice, eggs and I will add tofu are blank canvases to add things too.-So much will go with them.

  • Kari, please come check out my site. I have 4 1/2 months of menus and recipes, and I nw you can do it, because I’ve fed a family of 8 for $100 a month for the last two years. I have several meatless and less-meat recipes and tips as well on how we get our food bill down.

    Several people mentioned beans. I buy my beans in bulk in a 25 pound bag for around .65 a pound.

    I also detailed prices and how to eat beans more often (2 weeks of beans meals) on my blog:

    • Tina says:

      I recently happened upon your site, and it is incredible! I can’t tear myself away from it! From the beautiful garden photos to the money saving ideas to the low cost recipes, I am completely hooked. You have so much wisdom and it is lucky for us that you are kind enough to “share the wealth”. Definitely a great site to go to for ideas.

    • Sarah says:

      Yes, this woman is amazing! Brandy is economical but does it in style. Definitely check out her site for great ideas!

    • Megan says:

      I was just going to post a link to Brandy’s blog! 🙂 I totally recommend her site.

    • Becky G says:

      I have learned much from the Prudent Homemaker! I love the many great ideas!

  • kim says:

    I’m looking forward to what others have to say about this also. I just started this challenge for our family but have boys 11 and 14. So need cheap meals that have large portions. Have found using a little meat in pasta or rice has been working better than serving them separate. But having trouble staying within the $200 since I end up making 8-10 servings to have enough to feed them so they aren’t snacking constantly.

    • Anna says:

      Feeding growing boys in pre-teen and teen years is a big expensive because they get hungry a lot.

    • Lana says:

      Any sort of homemade bread is a great filler upper for teenage boys. I had three of them and I made it a point to have homemade biscuits or cornbread at many meals so that they did not feel deprived. Mom can only afford so much meat!

  • Andria says:

    One way I save money on meat are to buy “Family Packs” or “Yesterday’s Grind” packs of hamburger…in our area these are usually priced 2.00 less per pound than the smaller packs. I just divide them up into freezer bags and pop in the freezer. (A kitchen scale is a nice investment, I bought an antique one at a thrift store for 5.00) Also, whole chickens go on sale here occasionally for 3.99 or so. These are perfect to put in the crockpot. You can get every ounce of meat off them this way plus make chicken broth and it will usually break up into 2-3 meals for a family your size. The freezer really is your friend. Pork cube steaks are usually inexpensive as well and cook up nice in the crockpot with white sauce to serve over noodles or potatoes. Keep seeking out how to make meat an addition instead of main attraction and be proud of the efforts you are making. Every now and then you will discover a new trick that really pays off and eventually you will be an expert at frugal grocery shopping/cooking!

  • Sheri Atchison says:

    This is something I have been wondering about for a long time. We are starting to eat only organic and it is so expensive. We are starting off slowly with produce first. I have a family of 3 and we always spend way too much money on food. I can’t wait to see what suggestions everyone has.

    • April says:

      We are leaning towards organic. I’ve heard that the best way is to start buying organic with the dirty dozen list.

    • Kirsten says:

      I’m in the same boat – I’m trying to get mostly organic for my daughter and I and it adds up so quickly! I find it worth the expense, but am spending so much on groceries!

    • Michelle says:

      We are a family of 5 and eat 75% organic. Yes it is more expensive, the benefits (if you can afford the cost) are worth it. Please remember it does cost more to do things the right way, no pesticides, taking care of animals and the earth properly. Please remember these families don’t always farm because their is a lot of money to be made, they do it because they love it. Check out the movie Food Inc.

      In the summer there are local USDA certified organic farmers at the farmers market, I find the cost to be very reasonable. And if you can grow even the smallest garden that helps too. Grocery wise if you have a Trader Joes near you….they have the best prices and products for organic produce I have found.

  • Amy says:

    Two ideas that have helped us:

    1) Look for a local farmer from whom you can buy part of an animal (for instance, 1/4 of a cow). Ours usually charges per pound for whatever you want, so we get hamburger and steak for the same price per pound. Yes, there is still an initial investment cost of buying that much, but the price per pound is a lot cheaper than store prices, even on sale! If you “sell” the rest of the animal (go in with other families so that you are buying the whole animal), the group of you can sometimes even get the price cheaper because the farmer doesn’t have to find someone else to buy the rest.

    2) Look for a local discount store. We just purchased four bags of groceries for $16.00 there, which included some fresh produce. That allows us to spend some of our other grocery money on the more expensive items. This same store sells local produce in large quantities for cheap prices (for instance, 50 lb. box of potatoes for $7.99).

  • Mariah says:

    My best advice for meat is to buy in bulk on sale and use it to make meals that stretch. I can dice up 2 or 3 chicken breast and use them for casseroles, fajitas, or throw in the crock pot to make cheesy chicken, with enough for my family of 5 with leftovers. Anything that can be bulked up with bread crumbs or rice, like meatloaf or meatballs, will stretch your ground beef. I cut sausage up thin when I make red beans and rice and jambalaya and I can use just a pound of sausage per meal that way! I also use canned tuna fish and chicken, which tends to be cheaper and can be bought with coupons, for casseroles and such.

    Reserve steaks and expensive seafood for special occasions and birthdays.

    • Karen says:

      There are just some times when my family wants a meat and potatoes meal (like meatloaf and mashed potatoes). I found a recipe for S-T-R-E-T-C-H-E-D Meatloaf in Cheap Fast Good cookbook that I love.. one pound of burger plus a cup of breadcrumbs and 1/2 cup of oats (I actually increase it to a cup of oats) and no one in my family has figured out that its not all burger. It feeds our family of 6 (only one under the age of 10) with leftovers easy and their “meat” craving is fully satisfied.

  • Sarah says:

    With only $200 to work with I would do the following:

    *eliminate beverages or grossly cut them back.
    *purchase the cheapest meat that week. for example, this week whole chickens are on sale at smart & final for 79cents a pound.
    *continue to stretch whatever meat you have by using beans, rice, potatoes, and vegetables.
    *oatmeal is a cheap and filling meal.
    *popcorn is a cheap snack.
    *the cheapest dinners I make are bean burritos or mexican skillet. I take brown rice (white would be fine too) or potatoes, black beans, and one chicken breast shredded. Add whatever mexican flavors you can. I have even added some taco bell sauce packets before in a pinch!
    *dry split peas are super cheap too and you can make vegan pea soup from them.

    Hope that helps!

  • cher says:

    lentils and split peas can be nutritious budget friendly meals!

  • Lynn Dailey says:

    Some people don’t like this idea, but If you are wanting to eat more meat, Turkey season is about to start. 😉 My dh works with some men that are hunters. They love it, they go out anytime that they can. They want trophy racks and feathers, but don’t want the meat. We gladly take the meat. My dh processes it and I help him wrap it up and stick in the freezer. It has come in handy many times when I couldn’t really afford meat. It is also organic and healthy. In this family, we <3 venison better than we like beef from the store.
    Fishing is an option too. Have you thought about Chickens? Are you in a place where you can have a coop and raise them for the eggs and meat? okay. I'll get off my farmgirl soap box now. LOL. HTH.

    • Starla says:

      Lynn you are hilarious! Turkey is a staple in our home, actually more than chicken. Store bought though, and always on sale.

    • susie says:

      I was going to mention the same tip! Go hunting! My husband got 2 elk last year, in wyoming we can get up to 3. It is so tasty, organic and free range! And the best part about it is that he grills it all so I don’t need to cook those nights which is pretty often! I am hoping to go hunting this year too, let see if I dare shoot one myself.

      • Lynn Dailey says:

        Susie, I just got my orange card this past weekend. The dh is suppose to take me hunting for deer sometime. He also declares that I have to gut it myself. I don’t know about that. 😉 LOL I prefer to make the kill and let him do the dirty work. I also had a church gal want me to come out and kill her possums. They were acting like possums and getting her chickens. I hear that possum can be tasty. if you’re desperate.

  • Rachael says:

    We like our meat. And I can’t stand legumes. We found purchasing a quarter of a cow was a good way to go to get a variety of cuts at a good price. I buy chickens 6 a time when they are $0.77/lb. Sam’s is a good place for pork, as you can get a pork loin for $1.97/lb and chicken breasts (skinless, boneless) for $1.97/lb — at least at our Sam’s.

    Rice is a good, cheap filler (though it does lack in nutrition).

    And I found flour cheaper in 25 lb bags at Walmart than the 25 or 50 lb bags at Sam’s. And then when Aldi’s opened, I got 5 lb bags even cheaper (unit price).

    Dairy is also generally an expensive part of a grocery budget.

    If I’m careful, I can feed our family of 3 (hubby big eater, me small eater and 2 year old boy) for about $275 a month, but $300 is sustainable.

    Grow as much as you can for fresh stuff, that would lower your budget a fair bit. Tomatoes are a good veg to start with, as you can get a high yield and then can them easily. This does take about a year to get going and see results (maybe longer, depends on your experience level!)

    And where you live makes a huge difference. When we lived in So Cal, I could get fresh stuff cheap-cheap (all grown locally!), but in Central Texas isn’t as nice for growing things, so stuff is more expensive.

    Eat seasonally. When corn is on for 6 ears for $1, buy masses and freeze for later.

    Bunch of random thoughts, hope something helps someone!

  • kari says:

    Have you read Miserly Moms by Jonni McCoy? She has great ideas… she suggests making sure to offer meals w/ a complete protein. For example brown rice and beans make a complete protein, or whole grain tortillas and beans. The key here is making sure you are dealing w/ 100% whole grains…

  • Amy H. says:

    Soup! You can make a huge pot of soup with very little meat, add some salad and rolls and it’s inexpensive, yet still filling!

  • Heather says:

    If you are going to Sam’s, check out the Premio brand Italian sausage. The per lb price is reasonable. Repackage and freeze in smaller portions. Two links, crumbled and cooked, will go a long way to flavoring a pot of soup, beans, or spaghetti sauce. Plus that is one of the better brands that I have tried, and it doesn’t have all the preservatives that some do. Chicken legs are cheap and tasty. A few of them make a great soup with black beans and barley.

    Fresh carrots and bananas are cheap. Can you plant a garden? Now’s the time depending on where you live. If you have to cut something, cut out crackers and junk before you cut out produce. About 6 months I stopped buying crackers, etc. and increased fruit purchases. Thought the kids would have a fit, but no one seemed to notice – and they really did love to eat crackers. Try the crockpot yogurt recipe from this site – much cheaper than store yogurt.
    Inexpensive dishes can be fabulous if well-seasoned. Use fresh onions and real garlic, spices, and herbs, and you won’t feel deprived. Check a good cookbook out of the library that has from-scratch recipes.

  • Lana Fink says:

    When you need meat, find out the day or time the store marks down their meat. I can find some better prices that way. I only need small quanities since there are just two of us. What the chef’s call gourmet hamburgers are what we were raised on. In other words add fillers to them like bread, onions and peppers.

  • Mitzi says:

    I have a family of 5, 3 kids ages 5, 3, 1. And we do a budget of $175 a month. I can be done! And without living on rice! I am a meat lover to the core, I price match a lot, and also shop Aldi. If you have this German grocery near you it will change your life! My mom would drive 1.5 hrs round trip to go to this store once a month. If not, price match what you can and only shop 1-2x a month. If you don’t go to the store you don’t spend money. Make everything from scratch.

  • Wendy says:

    You didn’t mention couponing. If you don’t use a website like or to help you find coupons for items that are on sale, that could help you tremendously! You can also print a lot of coupons from these websites, so you don’t even really need newspapers to get coupons. If you do get a newspaper for coupons, it’s much cheaper to subscribe to Sunday only – rather than buy at the store. And, check websites for your favorite items. You can usually download or request coupons from most companies’ websites. Also, shop first thing in the morning when stores generally mark down the meats for the day for the best selection. The meats are still good, but you’ll want to use them or freeze them asap. Instead of getting a big pack of meat for your family, make casseroles with smaller, cheaper pieces of meat. You’ll still get meat, but it’ll go further. Shop at stores that offer deals like buy 2 get 3 free to stock up on that stuff, but comparison price other items with a cheaper stores like Aldi or Wal-Mart. Look for the “reduced” produce bin at the back of your store’s produce section. Stock up on things that are in season. Can or freeze what you can. Not only will that save you money, but it tastes so much better than store-bought canned foods, and is so much more nutritious!

  • I try to stock up on things like frozen whole chickens when they go on good sale at my grocery store. They are usually much cheaper than buying boneless, chicken breasts. We cook them in the crock pot and use some of the meat for dinner one night, then shred the rest of the meat to use as a “topping” on pizzas, salads and rice dishes. We also then usually use the bones to make a soup and if there is any left over shredded chicken I add that to the soup as well.

    Here is how we cook our whole chickens in the crock pot:

    • kari says:

      The chicken idea works for me too. Albertson’s usually has them for less than 1$ a pound at least once a month. Day 1: Roasted chicken w/ veggies. Day 2: Soup or enchiladas, Day 3: Chicken Pot pie. After that it’s cat food. 🙂

  • Paige says:

    Yes, I believe this to be very possible!

    My family of four (now five) lived off of $200 a month (grocery, toiletries, paper products…) for 2 years, and we eat a moderately healthy diet. (We just recently slightly increased our budget because our family has grown.)

    My best tips would be:
    1. Price match – Look through all the local grocery store ads in your area, find the best deals & shop at Walmart. We save a minimum of 50% on every shopping trip. This is how we save big on produce, meats & dairy. Watch out for those 2-3 days sales that certain stores run – Walmart will price match those sales as long as you shop within those certain days.
    2. Coupon – Combining price matching and couponing saves both time and money. I use mostly printable coupons.

    Favorite meatless meals:
    Bean Tacos (Anything mexican for that matter.)
    Fried rice with eggs
    Vegetable soup with beans
    Breakfast for dinner

  • jenny says:

    It wouldnt hurt to perhaps have a conversation with the butcher in your local grocery store. I’ve had some success asking when meat is marked down and sometimes I’ve even been lucky enough to have a coupon paired with it.

  • Vanessa says:

    One thing that I didn’t see mentioned was making homemade chicken broth with the whole chickens when they are on sale. Soups can be made really inexpensively with homemade broth and it is so good for you, too!

    Consider little things like saving bread ends in the freezer and making bread crumbs or stuffing with them. Sometimes it’s the little things that you do that really can make a difference! Maybe you could try making homemade snacks instead of buying crackers.

    I noticed that The Prudent Homemaker mentioned her site and I would also recommend it. She has a white bean alfredo sauce that we love (my boys don’t even realize that they’re eating beans!) Just add some pasta and leftover chicken and peas if you have them and you’ll have a very inexpensive meal. She’s also got a black bean burger recipe that I haven’t tried yet, but others have written on her blog that it is very good.

  • Jessica says:

    Our family of 5 (2 adults; 6.5yo, almost 3yo and a 3mo baby mostly on formula due to my very low milk supply) plus two cats has a weekly budget of $100 for groceries, diapers, wipes, formula, cleaning, hygiene, cat food and litter.

    Here are my tips:
    *Ask family members for the gift of meat. For us, this is a 1/4 cow each Christmas from my parents. The beef is raised my my uncle and it is grassfed and organic. My Dad and Uncles are also hunters and we get the meat of at least 1 deer each year.
    *Coupon if it makes sense for you.
    *Stockpile items when they are at their lowest price.
    *Share a warehouse club membership if it makes sense for you. We buy our flour, sugar, spices, cheese and some other things there.
    *Plan simple meals based on what’s in your stockpile and what’s on sale for fresh things at the store where you shop. If you see something in the clearance area at your store, make an instant substitution to your meal plan!
    My menu this week has been:
    ham, scalloped potatoes and peas on Easter Sunday
    Monday: ham and noodles with sauce, green beans
    Tuesday: ham fried rice
    Wednesday: homemade pizza with ham
    Thursday: grilled cheese sandwiches, corn
    Friday: homemade meatballs, gravy, noodles, peas
    Saturday: homemade meatloaf, mashed potatoes, corn

    lunches- my oldest is home this week on spring break. Our lunches have been:
    Monday- mac & cheese
    Tuesday: pb&j
    Wednesday: cheese sandwiches
    Thursday: leftover pizza
    Friday: pb&j
    Saturday: leftovers

    breakfast- fruit, cereal/oatmeal, leftover coffee cake from Sunday

    My DH and 6.5 year old are very picky eaters and won’t eat most fruits or veggies. Also around here, even though we live in Ohio, our local farmer’s markets are ridiculously expensive. I can’t afford $5 per pound tomatoes or $10 per pound bacon.

  • Challice says:

    You can do it! We’re doing it with a family of 5 (1 is only a year but I am currently pg and eating for 2 ;))

    We are also doing this gluten free and dairy free. Which gets the cost up because I can’t take advantage of the cheaper wheat stuff. However, we are very blessed because people know we are gluten free and will find some pasta or something and buy them for us as a gift.
    Tips that have helped me;

    Don’t think its impossible. Don’t admit defeat before you try. With the give up attitude, everything else will crumble.
    Be diligent.
    Take inventory of your pantry. This will help you keep an idea of when sales happen what you need and how many you should stock up on.
    Menu plan, quite often I think of what i have on hand before I think about what I want to make for the week. It helps keep the budget down.
    Make a grocery list and stick to it. Don’t isle shop thinking about what you need and getting it. Many times we add more into our cart than what we need.
    Coupon. Even healthy items have coupons at times!
    Keeps the meals simple.
    Buying in bulk. Check the unit price. I was surprised that sometimes buying in bulk is NOT cheaper when you check per unit.
    We went meatless. Its too expensive. Sometimes we can find ground beef on mark down for $1.99# and then I’ll grab enough for tacos, chili, etc.
    Cook in bulk. If I make a lot of chicken at once I can eeek out more meals than if I just took chicken out for one meal.
    Use Cereal as a rare occasion. Its expensive once you add in milk. Oatmeal is cheaper (, a co-op place has 5# of organic oatmeal for $10.00. That is the cheapest I have been able to find and you can get so much from them. See if tehy have a place in your area.)
    Soups. Soups are a great way to get veggies in you and be affordable. Serve with cornbread for a more filling meal.
    Shred your own cheese. If you buy cheese block, quite often its a $1 less or more per pound than the already shredded cheese. My 5 yr old daughter has the job of grading it for us. (I and my 1 yr old are dairy free so we don’t eat it. )
    Do burritos, mexican rice and refried beans and easy things for lunch.

  • When you buy fresh produce, like peppers for example, save the seeds and plant them. Dollar tree has seed packs for .25 cents each. Get a few and start some seeds whenever your climate allows. Make everything from scratch as much as possible. I stretch taco filling by adding lots of refried beans. When you season them well, it tastes exactly the same. When I make spaghetti or lasagna with meatsauce, I only use about 1/4 cup of cooked beef. I often cook up a couple pounds of ground beef and keep it in the freezer. I’ll add some to whatever I am making, whether it’s sauce, soup, etc. Chicken can be stretched too. Make all your bread, tortillias, etc from scratch. If you don’t have one, get a bread machine. I’ve seen them at Goodwill. It will help you so much. Don’t buy cereal; serve oatmeal. It’s healthier and much cheaper. It can be done.

  • Krafty Momma says:

    First of all, congratulations on taking FPU! We love Dave Ramsey!

    What’s worked best for my husband and I is to take small, attainable steps. Where we live, $200 a month for a family of four is very doable, but depending upon your region, that may simply not be possible. If you’ve been living on a grocery budget of $400, make it a goal to simply save $50 to make your goal be $350. After you are comfortable with $350, you can find more ways to cut. It’s amazing how much “found” money one can find this way!

    We cook a LOT of whole chickens in the crockpot. They taste yummy, and then we have already cooked chicken for other meals. We also make oatmeal for breakfast because it is 3/4 of the cost of cereal.

    Another good option is to see if you can barter for food. If you can cut hair or do other services, sometimes those that are blessed with too much milk, meat, or produce will share in exchange for services. Since I’m a SAHM, my husband and I trade services for unpasteurized milk and eggs. We’ll also help our neighbors with their garden when they are out of town in exchange for excess vegetables.

    • I love cooking chicken in my slow cooker, too! It is so tender, it truly falls off the bone. I love that I’m saving money for chicken that tastes better than the more expensive boneless, skinless variety! 🙂

      • Starla says:

        I have three crock pots and put three whole chickens in them on the same day. One with just salt, pepper, one with salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, marjoram, and one with a little Italian dressing poured over. They all come out yummy and used for many meals for four people. Another good easy chicken crock pot dish, which we had tonight, is salsa chicken. Put any chicken you have into your crock pot in the morning with any jar of salsa you got cheap from couponing! Dinnertime yum! Serve it with rice and a salad.

  • Jennifer says:

    I would have a hard time with that one. Depending on where you live and if stores double coupons, ect. I have been sticking to a meal plan. This always saves us money even if I choose not to use coupons that week for whatever reason. I would have a small fund (maybe even ten dollars) a month or week to purchase loss leader items. This will save you money over time, even if you up your budget initially. Also, grow a cheap0 container garden this summer. This doesn’t have to be expensive, its fun for the kids, nearly free entertainment and provides healthy food! Ask your neighbors for unused coupons!

    • Sarah in Alaska says:

      Absolutely agree. We do not have a store that doubles coupons and honestly, we’re grateful to have access to a store. 🙂

      Some of the prices that people quote for things are half what I can get things for. So, to the original question, don’t get down if you live in a place where you can get the same deals other people can. And be realistic about what you can do.

      • alianora says:

        HA! I’ve been there! We lived in a Yupik village in Alaska for 2 years, and we were just excited to go to the store! Even though I wouldn’t let the husband buy cereal, because $8 for a small box of Cheerios is just too much.

  • Kate says:

    Wow! Good luck with your grocery budget! My recommendation would be beans, beans, and some more beans. You can buy a bag of dried beans for under a dollar. When you cook them, I ‘d say they make the equivalent to 4 or 5 cans of beans. You can mix them with rice. You can also mix them with ground meat to stretch the meat. I like to eat beans on top of baked potatoes (potatoes are also reasonable) with salsa and cheese. There are alot of recipes you can find online.
    Also, canned tuna and chicken makes decent salads. That, and egg salad. Watch for coupons and sales on frozen vegetables as well. You can use Target coupons and get decent deals on their “market pantry” frozen veggies.
    Hope that helps!

  • Jen says:

    Don’t waste leftovers, incorporate in to another meal. Let nothing go to waste.

  • SJ says:

    We carefully guard our health especially when we have a low grocery budget. Even with a grocery budget of $200/ per month I always make sure we have plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, milk and enough lean meat (roughly 4 0z per family member per day most days of the week). We eat a few servings of whole grains a day. I buy whatever is on sale and stock up on our favorites. I avoid candy except for holidays. and save nearly-free sugar cereals for an occasional dessert. With food inflation you may need more money

    We always wash and dry our hands (or use a baby wipe) before we eat or after we’ve been in public places. For example we always go in and baby-wipe our toddler’s hands before he eats in Church nursery on Sunday and when we go home from Church.

    My kids go years without getting sick and are cavity- and filling-free.

  • Jennifer says:

    Do you use coupons? I see coupons for meat – especially pork – all the time. Combined with a sale you should be able to get a pretty good deal. I also use meat sparingly. We are a family of 6 and I frequently only use 1/2 lb of meat for a meal. It is more of a side dish than the main course. Casseroles, soups and stews are great for stretching meat. I would also lean heavily on pasta, potatoes, beans and eggs. Good luck!

  • April says:

    I just bought the bulk of our groceries for the month and spent $215. I did buy a bunch of unnecessaries, too. This is my first month trying once a month shopping. This weekend I wrote out three meals a day for the entire month. I kinda cheated as I mostly copied from one week to another. I made my first week around what was left in my freezer/pantry. I went to one store yesterday and stuck pretty close to my list. The meat was outrageous at that store. So, today I went to another store for all my meat.

    I bought the meat in bulk and broke it all down into baggies. The ground beef was separated into 3/4 lbs instead of full pounds. I’ve found that I don’t miss the extra when it is used in a recipe, as opposed to burgers.

    We get one convenience meal when I go shopping. So, my son got a little box of chicken nuggets. Ok, we do buy peanut butter and bread. But, everything else is whole foods. We do a lot of grilled meat and vegetables. We don’t serve bread with our meals and we drink water. Also, we don’t keep drinks around. I keep powdered milk for recipes. My son drinks almond milk, but the rest of us just drink water (or coffee :). We don’t keep snack food in the house either. If we want something sweet, we make fruit smoothies fresh. It cuts down on the grazing.

    The only thing I will have to buy on a weekly basis is half and half, bananas and almond milk for my son. I know I can get it lower, but this was my first month in a long time.

    One time I sat down and broke down all of my regular recipes. I figured out how much my most common ingredients cost per unit and used those numbers to find out how much each recipe cost. I was very surprised. What I thought was one of my cheapest meals actually wasn’t.

    • Deanna says:

      I also keep a list of common ingredients and use it to figure out just what our meals cost. It can be surprising to find out that something you assumed was inexpensive really isn’t. I’ve been doing this for about 8-10 years now and it’s also interesting to see how costs change over time. I think I first read about this concept in the Complete Tightwad Gazette.

  • Donna says:

    15 Simple Ways to Save on Your Grocery Budget:

    I’m currently feeding 5 (big) kids and a hubby who loves food, for between $5 and $10 a day.

    You can do it!

    • Starla says:

      How Donna, I need some details. I have 5 I feed, me, hubby, son in college still at home, daughter junior in high school who eat meat, and mom is 87 and is a vegetarian. Help!

  • April says:

    OK, I’m double dipping. Learn to braise your meat. You can make the cheapest cut of meat so tender that it will just fall apart!

  • stephanie says:

    I stretch meat by adding beans, veggies & grains into the meat. For instance, when I make tacos: add 2 cups of cooked beans to 1 pound of ground meat, then taco seasoning (homemade cheaper). This will make 1 pound of taco meat into 2 dinners.

    Pot roast: cook 1 roast, use it for 3-4 meals
    Meal 1: pot roast, with lots of sides & veggies, no one misses the smaller portion of meat.
    Meal 2: shredded beef & bean burritos (again, add a bit of the meat, then beans & lots of veg)
    Meal 3: Beef stroganoff: Lots of mushrooms, onions, peas & noodles, use left over pot roast gravy & sour cream.
    Meal 4: Shepard’s pie: Small amount of meat, lentils, leftover gravy & loads of veg.

    Great veggie fillers are lentils ( cheap & melt into nothing), onions, celery, carrots, frozen veg. I buy fruit & veg on sale, then process & freeze. Some items can be expensive, so I watch for sales or discounts, buy cook/clean & freeze.

    Pasta sauce: I will make a huge batch (like 16 cups of sauce) in the summer to 1 pound ground meat. So, it will make 4 dinners ( 4 cups each) & I use our garden tomatoes & only 1 pound meat. Stretches it beautifully & no one misses the meat. I puree roasted vegetables to bulk up the sauce.

    Chilis or soups are great to stretch the meat. I add additional veg, veg puree, beans or grains to bulk up & thicken things. My hubby doesnt like thin soups, so whatever I can add to things to bulk it up, makes it more filling. You can also put these soups, stews, chilis into a pie pan & bake it into a chicken pot pie or tamale pie, etc.

    Hope this helps! Good luck.

    • Diane says:

      I also add pureed veges to my tomato sauce for spaghetti, chili, lasagna, etc. I shred & freeze zucchini in the summer for that reason. I also bake & puree our pumpkins for the same purpose. Surprisingly, you can’t taste the pumpkin at all & you get all that bonus beta carotene!! Love it!!!

  • Deanna says:

    Those are all great ideas! One thing that really helped our family was, instead of serving meals “family style,” put appropriate serving sizes on the plates before they reach the table. You really don’t have to over think it, either, just put on the plates a tiny bit less than what you think the person will eat, and if the kids clean their plate, they can have seconds. My kids also get a kick out of playing “waiter” and delivering the plates to the appropriate seats at the table. Oh, and I also keep a list of my “least expensive meals ever” and rotate them into the menu when I really need to watch what I’m spending. Good luck!

  • Michelle Smith says:

    Garden….also see if you can buy local seafood from fresh off the boat.

  • Donna says:

    Kari, one more thing.

    Look at storing up on meat when it’s on sale. Check out this-
    100lbs of meat for $130!

  • Melanie says:

    We’ve found that lentils make a great hamburger substitute in a lot of things (pasta sauce and chili being the big ones). Dried beans are also very affordable, so you can make things like burritos or black bean burgers.

  • Debbie Yates says:

    I totally understand your precidament. I have to live on 100 a month due to a recent job situation. You are off to a good start. Hot dogs and hamburger can make many amazing meals. I have a ton of those recipes. If you would like them. Be sure to use whats in your pantry, on every Sunday we go through our pantry and freezer seeing what we have and make a menu for the week. You can also do this for two weeks. Use whats in the pantry and then make a grocery list based on the menu you just planned. Buy only those items that are for your menu. You can also look into making your own laundry soap and dish washing soap. We make our own french fries and potatoe chips. It is alot of work but it can be done. Also use store brand when possible and if there is an Aldis near you shop there as well.

  • Beth says:

    Look through your receipts each week and figure out where *your* budget busters are. In other words, what are the expensive items that are eating up your budget? Is it just meat? For us, it was fruit juice, frozen potatoes, napkins, paper towels, cereal, and lunch meat. By coming up with items that were inexpensive replacements (or doing without), we shaved expenses out of other areas of our budget and created room for a few others that were important to us. As we went along, we discovered other items that were expensive. Some (laundry detergent) we could not eliminate, but it certainly motivated us to work to buy when it was deeply discounted. We try not to buy any grocery items that are more than 3.00, and often try to keep individual items to a dollar or less. Also, watch how MANY of an item you buy, 7 $1 items adds up quickly. We also were throwing away a fair amount of produce, so by getting smaller bags of grapes or a smaller amount of bananas, we were able to shave a little off our produce budget without sacrificing nutrition or variety.

    • Heather says:

      True. I think meat unfairly gets all the blame for raising the cost of your bill!

    • Kayla says:

      Another way to save on fruit is to freeze unused portions. Frozen grapes are one of my go-to snacks and frozen overripe bananas are great for smoothies or banana bread/muffins. Leftover vegetables or vegetables on the verge of going bad can also be frozen together and made into a vegetable soup. Just keep a bag or freezer-safe container in your freezer and throw leftovers in there. You’ll be surprised how quickly they accumulate!

      As mentioned in other comments, couponing and price-matching are great ways to save money, but they do require a bit of research/effort. Just make sure that you are only purchasing items that you actually need. My biggest mistake when I first started couponing was buying anything and everything that I had a coupon for. I soon realized that these “deals” weren’t truly deals because spending a few cents on something I didn’t need was more expensive than not purchasing the item.

      Good luck to you and your family!

  • Shannon Scruggs says:

    I have been and am still going down this road. Because we are flexitarians, we only eat meat three times a week. Having said that, I found myself challenged by the fact that I didnt want to have chicken all the time. So because of where I live (Tennessee) my brother hunts every year. He always tags me good meat. Venison is good for you, and has no fat so it is very lean meat. We pay 70.00 to have it processed and it lasts all year. 🙂

  • What great ideas everyone has to share! Sufficient to say, yes, I think it is possible. My husband and I (no kids yet) yet on a budget of $180 a month – but that also includes all our toiletries, paper products, cleaning supplies and the like, in addition to food. My husband likes meat at his meals, so I have learned to buy ground beef for the freezer when it is cheapest – and I stretch it as much as I am able. I used to buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but I now I only buy chicken breasts on the bone and cook them in my slow cooker. I am saving at least a $1 a pound, and the chicken actually tastes better! When my husband is working late, those are the nights I’ll eat meatless. Other than that, pinch pennies where you can and stockpile grocery items to make your money go further. Good luck snowballing!

    • Jen says:

      Don’t forget to throw the chicken bones back in the crockpot with some water, celery, carrot and onion on low overnight for super cheap and nutritious chicken broth!

  • Gigi says:

    I find being more “purposeful” in what you buy helps. Making stuffed bell peppers? Cut the tops off a little lower than normal (no one will notice) and save them to use in fajitas or soup. If a recipe calls for a whole onion, use 1/2 and add in some onion powder. Save the left over carrot tops and broccoli stalks for homemade veggie stock. Stretch every bit of food you can and let nothing go to waste!

    You mentioned you have a Sams card, so do I… I buy the $1.99 a lb packages of unfrozen chicken tenders that are in the meat section all the time. I split them up into 6-7 freezer bags with 6-7 tenders in each bag. That is $12 for 6-7 bags… about $2 per meal or less! I feed a family of 5 for $200 per month and I buy 2 of the packages of chicken tenders each month… that is only 10% of my food budget for about half of my meals! (I cut the tenders up into bite size pieces to make them stretch farther in the recipe too.)

  • Debbie Yates says:

    Oh I forgot!! Make your own noodles. You can make them and cook them off and then freeze them. you can make noodles for months for next to nothing and it so simple. just a bit time consumine as you have to roll out the dough and then cut them. But well worth it and they taste so much better. Save your pieces also from produce to make stock. Everything from an onion can be used except for the paper skin. the peels from a carrot, all the pieces you cut off and throw away can be froze until you have enough to make stock with.

  • Erin says:

    Learn to cook dried beans properly! I thought I didn’t like them but I just didn’t know how to cook them properly. Google “brine dried beans.”

    I’m a huge foodie, and this is one of my favorite homemade meals ever (and a family pleaser, too!):

    • Erin says:

      Also, if you like Chipotle, there are lots of knock-off recipes on the web. You can get away with small mounts of meat or none at all!

  • Allison says:

    I have been trying for months to cut our grocery bill to $300 per month but the best I can do is $350. We also have a 3 and 5 year old, and their lunch is provided at daycare. I live in northeast Tennessee where cost of living (and food) is low, but we do pay 9.5% sales tax on everything, including food. I weigh 100 lbs and my husband weighs 135 so we are just not big eaters. So I think$200 is an unrealistically low number. I think you will experience more success if you have a more realistic number for groceries in your budget. Some ideas might be to try gardening or look for a salvage grocery store which sells dented or nearly out of date food items. I don’t have time for those because I also work full time outside the home. I make snacks from scratch (cookies, granola bars) and do lots of freezer cooking with meat and whatever else is on sale. We rarely eat out, even though we are a busy family. I am just trying to be realistic and accept the fact that $350 is the best we can do.

  • Karen says:

    There are so many great ideas here. I would add that anything you can make from scratch is probably going to be cheaper than the store bought version. I make my own jams and jellies which saves us a bunch and also taste so much better. I buy fruit or berries on sale, either fresh or frozen, and puree them. I freeze them in two cup amounts and when we want jam or jelly, I simply add a cup of sugar to the two cups of fruit and cook for about ten to fifteen minutes until it is thick enough to be jam. Put in a jar and you are ready to go. We have crab apple trees and I puree and freeze applesauce in the Fall. This makes great apple butter, again I make two cups at a time.

    Another suggestion is to look for chicken leg quarters in the store. They are usually very cheap. I take them and cut the drumsticks and thighs off the back pieces and freeze the pieces individually. You can then fry or bake the thighs or drumsticks for a chicken dinner or use them in a recipe in place of chicken breasts. The back pieces I will cook alot of those together to make chicken soup. They make a great broth and there is usually enough meat on them to make a great tasting soup.

  • Maegen says:

    Was it this site that had the recipe for lentil taco meat?
    Google it, if not. If you can’t go all meatless, take the amount you have and stretch it with rice and beans.
    As others have said, read some blogs and get a list of cheap, simple recipes to rotate. Make things like cleaning spray (even shampoo!) or do the drugstore game with your coupons, so that you’ll have more food money.
    Crystal’s book also has some recipes. If you don’t have it, it would be a great companion to Dave Ramsey’s book.
    I’ll also say that 200.00 a month is very light with two growing boys. As others have said, it definitely Can be done, if you are new to budgeting in general, giving yourself another 10.00 a week to work with would be enough to do at least two more meat meals and might make the process less stressful for you.
    Just be sure to use the cash only system so you’re not tempted to cheat beyond that!

    • Lana says:

      I think the lentil tacos are on The Prudent Homemaker’s site. (I could be wrong :))

      • Yes 🙂

        Cook lentils. Add tacos seasoning (I buy it in bulk or you can buy spices in bulk and make your own) and salsa to taste.

        Then on my site you can see how we cook our own shells (SO much cheaper than buying them, and I like them SO much more!) Right now we’re getting lettuce from the garden, so lentil tacos are on the menu tonight!

        I grew up eating cheese on my tacos, but that is an expensive addition. My husband (who taught me how to cook the shells) grew up without the cheese. I’ve found that I like tacos just fine without cheese.

        I buy lentils in bulk to get a better price.

  • Patty says:

    $200 budget for a family of 4 seems quite drastic. Dave Ramsey’s website states: “When you have food in your belly, you live to fight another day.”. That being said, trusting that you have truly committed to living on this food budget, years ago I found a website that took up the challenge to eat on a budget of $1 per day per person. Check out the Sept 2008 blog archive at

  • Molly says:

    I am on the same quest! Some things I do:

    1) Coupons (if it’s something I’m going to buy anyway; don’t spend money on stuff that won’t get used, no matter how cheap it is).
    2) Shop local or regional grocery stores. Usually their loss leaders are great (again, IF it’s something you use and would buy anyway) and it’s a great way to stock up on things.
    3) Borrow/buy/check out a few once-a-month cooking or freezer meal cookbooks. Then if you find a great deal on chicken breasts (or whatever), you can do your freezer meal cooking.
    4) Meal plan. (This should actually be #1.) Be diligent about checking the best deals on groceries and plan accordingly.
    5) Check out or your regional equivalent. Sometimes you can get really great deals on meats (if you have the space or can share with a friend).
    6) Cook from scratch. This is usually cheaper (and better for you), even if it is sometimes more time consuming.
    7) Get creative! Do a freezer meal swap with some family or friends. Pal up with a neighbor who has extra produce in their garden and might be willing to exchange lawn work for veggies.

    And don’t forget that while this will be hard, it is definitely worth it. You can do it. It’ll take time and dedication. But it IS worth it.

  • Lana says:

    If you have Aldi then make it your go to place for produce and stock up on what is on sale each week. They tend to alternate fruit and vegetable sale weeks which works really well as most produce will last 2 weeks if you store it properly. I never buy potatoes or onions except on sale at Aldi. Once you get a feel for the sale cycle that they run you will know how much to buy. Also, rethink buying things like bagged salads and baby carrots. Once you stop using bag salads you realize how bad they taste and peeling and cutting your own carrots is way cheaper and does not take a ton of time. I do a pound of carrots at a time and store them in a ziploc bag so they are ready to eat.

    I read all of the comments and did not see anyone mention breakfast for dinner one night a week. When our kids were growing up I put breakfast meat in the eggs and that gave us the taste of bacon, ham or sausage but in reality I only used a tiny amount. Make your own pancake mix for way cheaper than a box mix and there are some great recipes for homemade syrups too. Cheese grits are a wonderful dinner time treat too and they are very filling. Add a basket of homemade biscuits and you have a great dinner with some cut up fruit. Watch for a waffle iron at yard sales. Homemade waffles are a great winter lunch. I use the below mentioned pancake mix for waffles too.

    I highly recommend the ‘More with Less’ cookbook. Some of the recipes in that book helped me feed five children when it seemed that I just could not afford it. The pancake mix recipe is fantastic. I am famous for my pancakes and it is that mix and the the book will pay for itself just for the pancake mix recipe.

  • Lydia says:

    Loved reading through all these comments. Lots of good stuff!

    Kari, you can do it although it obviously takes a bit of work. We spend $200/mo. on groceries and household items for our family of 4.

    Stop by my blog and find out some of the things that I do to help keep our budget low. I even have some menu plans posted. And just to make things easy, here’s a link to my 10 most popular posts for last year including one about 4 Things I Do To Keep Our Grocery Budget at $200/mo..


  • Mary says:

    Make meals that meat is not the main component of – meat as more of an extra. Think spaghetti, not tacos (I use 1/2 to 3/4 of a pound for the 6 of us). Or a casserole with cut up chicken, not just a piece of chicken with sides. We have breakfast for dinner once a week — eggs are cheap, and I scramble them with 1/2 pound of breakfast sausage for extra flavor. (Add some cheese if you want – we have dairy issues.)

    I also look for meat that is about to “expire”. I bought ground beef for $1.99 a pound yesterday because it’s code date is today. It’s now divided up in bags in my freezer, and will be good for 6 months. If you have an Aldi nearby, they usually have good meat prices.

    If you or your husband are really missing more expensive meats, I would consider saving some “blow” money to buy steaks or seafood (whatever you love) once a month. Much cheaper than going out for it, and well worth it if it keeps you on track. Obviously, that’s not always an option, but when you’re TOO frugal, it can get really tough. We prefer to splurge on food stuff (nice meals at home, occasional high quality chocolates) than other stuff, but I know every situation is unique.

  • Lana says:

    One other suggestion–I know someone will throw rocks at me for this but humans cannot absorb the calcium from pasteurized milk so you really don’t need to buy gallons and gallons of milk for the kids to drink every week. Beverages are a huge drain on the budget in general so just drink water for the most part.

    • Debbie Yates says:

      we drink water for nearly every meal!! people dont realize how important water is!

    • SJ says:

      I agree that fresh milk from the cow is probably best, but all the men and women in my extended family (aunts, uncles, and grandparents) grew up drinking a quart of pasteurized milk a day and all are tall, never had a broken bone, and don’t have osteoporosis.

      And eating enough meat is really important because it is the only natural source of vitamin B12. I know three nutrition professors that give lectures on the importance of eating a few ounces of meat every day.

    • liz says:

      No rock throwing here:) Your totally right about the milk! No need for it!

  • Alice says:

    If no one in your family is allergic do not forget peanut butter can be used as a cheaper protein. A local grocery store where I am had the store brand for 99 cents a jar last week. My family loves a spoonful of peanut butter and jelly or strawberry preserves on pancakes. And a banana peanut butter sandwich my grandkids think is the best sandwich in the world on warm home made bread yummo. You can also find a lot of Asian style noodles and stir fries that use peanut butter in the sauce for suppers that are full of veggies. Pintrest has a lot of these type of recipes. I also shop a local market right about noon because that is when they mark down the rotisserie chickens I often get a whole chickens for $2.00 or $3.00 and can easily use it in pot pies, casseroles, stir fries, tacos, burritos, ect. and get two really nice meals from one chicken. Then throw the carcass into a stock pot for a couple of hours remove the bones and make a very healthy soup for a third meal.

  • Brigitta says:

    Plant a garden, no matter how small the space. You can focus on lettuce, beets, & spinach on an apartment balcony with an herb pot for your favorite spices. The challenge with a limited budget is getting as much nutrients for health in each bite as possible. Beans are all good, but combine them with rice to get a complete protein in a meatless meal. A different profile than animal protein, so don’t forego meat altogether. Make everything from scratch and focus on bone broth and veggies for optimal nutrition. You can even make your own yogurt and drain it to get a variation on cream cheese. You can use the whey in lots and lots of ways to up the protein content of your meals without the starch.

    Buy in bulk (love the idea of being gifted a cow for Christmas!). Buying small quantities from the bulk section is a good place to start until you have saved enough to make a large bulk purchase of something. Go in with a friend and split bulk orders so you get the great price without the large quantity (you’ll be able to afford to sooner).

    Make your own cleaners, laundry soap, dishwasher soap, and even makeup to possibly rework other areas of your budget to provide more room for groceries. Our philosophy in budgeting is a little different, we don’t budget groceries (but we shop sales, buy in season, make simple meals, etc.) but everything else. We view food as our medicine and medicine our food (Hippocrates) and would rather downsize our living space than compromise our health. I admire your goal, it is awesome. I use DIY Natural blog posts all the time to cut back on our spending.

  • lyss says:

    I really think determining a food budget depends on where you live and what your grocery store options are. Maybe where you live, that budget might work, but do be realistic. And while I’m all about reducing the grocery bill, we do have to eat! With the same age kids, I struggle to keep from spending more than $250/month. So if you’re making it on $200, I need to learn from you!

    A lot of commenters have talked about stretching meat, which I do. But I also say watch for sales! Shop around. You mentioned Sam’s, but what other stores are near you? I went to Sam’s recently, and, again, it may depend on where you live, but I thought overall prices were higher than other stores I shop at. A few things were cheaper, yes, but lots of foods were more expensive. Compare prices per lb. or per ounce. Buying in “bulk” may or may not mean cheaper.

    Look online for the sale ads for whatever stores you have and take advantage of meat and produce sales. I frequently get chicken for less than $1/lb. Last week I got country-style pork ribs for 97cents/lb. Ground turkey is often cheaper than beef. And look for clearance items. I just got 6, 1 lb. packages of various fresh sausages for $1 each because they were a day from expiring. Do I find things like that every week? No, but when I do, I try to stock my freezer.

    Use chicken bones to make broth. Even if you don’t want soups all the time, (which can be really cheap by the way, but who wants soup when it’s not cold out?!) you can use it in recipes or cook your rice in it for extra nutrition.

  • Shannon says:

    My grocery budget is $200 a month for a family of three and it isn’t easy but here are the things I do:
    1. Write out a menu for 3 weeks at a time (I write it so i can rearrange days as needed)
    2. Grocery shop based upon above menu
    3. Buy frozen chicken, turkey meat, and beans at Aldi and these are the primary staples of many meals
    4. Shop for most things at Aldi since I don’t have time to do coupons
    5. Mostly make meals that stretch over the course of 2-3 days ex. fajitas, tacos, burritos, and lasagna/pasta
    6. I don’t know how to freezer cook much but freeze any good deal in bulk and when I cook, we eat the same meal few days in a row
    7. Breakfast for dinner ex. omelet type eggs with veggies
    8. Crockpot items ex soups and chili
    9. Sandwich type dinners like BLT’s (we add avacado)
    10. We’ve been known to have oatmeal and toast for dinner during the tough times 🙂

  • Marie says:

    We are a family of 5 ( twins that are 6 and a 2 year old) Our budget is $200 a month. Having a stocked pantry is key for us. At one time I was a heavy couponer but that is not the season I’m in now. I use Walmart’s price matching and shop a lot at Aldi’s and supplement the rest at Target.
    If you don’t have an Aldi’s see if you have any local farmer’s market for fruits and veggies.
    My tip for meat is to shop ahead with sales and freeze. I usually only have to buy fresh chicken breasts 2x a year. I will find a sale where it is less then a dollar a pound and then stock up. I usually get 30 lbs or more. Then I take it home and cut it up and freeze it for meals. I try to buy all meat this way. I buy fish like Salmon or Tilapia at Aldi’s. Instead of buying fish sticks I will buy the fish and bread it myself for the kids.
    having a fully stocked pantry and freezer really helps. Then I only buy the essentials like bread, eggs, milk, cheese (but even that can be frozen) There have been several months that I have extra in the envelope at the end of the month. I use this money to save towards buying half a cow or beef. Or use it for stockpiling.
    It really can be done without a lot of time involved because that is something I don’t have much of.
    I also would recommend the books by the Econmides.
    I also freeze berries and peppers, mushrooms etc. Anything that I will use in a stirfry that won’t be hindered by freezing.

  • Lisa says:

    We love the humble russet potato! We can get a 10 lb bag cheaply at Winco. We like to bake them and top with chili (you can find cheap cans or make your own from dried beans bought in bulk) and cooked frozen broccoli or cauliflower, plus a bit of cheese.

  • Melody says:

    I am a mom of 3 and I currently coupon, buy only what is on sale, stock up when there are good sale items and coupons you can stack with them to make them almost free if not completely free, take inventory of what I already have on hand, try not to waste what I do have, use leftovers, make sure to use items before they expire or go bad, make meals from scratch. My family eats meat but I am currently a vegetarian and it can be tough especially since I have to make 2 dinners every night. I don’t buy juice often and never buy soda. I also have a water dispenser we got a yard sale and filling up the 5 gallons at the dispenser in front of the store is only $1 compared to the stores price for bottled water has saved me tons of money just by doing this. Just keep at it because it can be done.

  • Kate says:

    Quick meatless dishes:

    Cook some whole wheat pasta. In deep casserole dish mix your favorite chopped veggies (canned, frozen, and fresh all work) with your favorite herbs and spices, plus minced garlic if you have some. Mix in cooked pasta and sprinkle with grated cheese; bake at 350 or so until bubbly. Our favorite combinations are bell peppers and onions with a can of basil, garlic, and oregano tomatoes (drained) and Italian spices, or peppers and onions with a can of tomatoes and green chilies and taco spice.

    Drizzle saucepan with olive oil and set over medium to high heat. Add whole-kernel corn (canned or frozen), beans (canned or cooked), chopped onions, salsa, minced garlic if you have it, and cumin and chili powder to taste. Stir until hot and bubbly. Top with grated cheese and serve over plain baked potatoes or use as taco filling.

  • Rebecca says:

    We feed our family of 6 on $220 a month. It can be tough sometimes, but can be done. We usually have spaghetti with meatless sauce once a week and breakfast for dinner another night (pancakes, eggs, etc). Great ways to stretch meat are to
    1) use less and substitute with more veggies (like in soups, pot pies, omelettes or especially stir fry) or treat meat as a “side dish”
    2) make more veggie based casseroles that dont focus on mostly meat (manicotti, lasagna, chicken n rice)
    3) look for ‘clearance’ meat at the store, usually best found early morning, and make your menu around that. Once it is in the freezer you have a bit of time to use it.

  • Laurie says:

    We are a family of 3 and spend around $200/mos. Our main store is Aldi’s for our staples,fruits and veggies. We love casseroles so like others have said I will make a double batch for the size of 2 casseroles and only use 1pm of chicken. As a matter of fact the chicken broccoli rice casserole here in Crystals site we eat every week broccoli,rice,chicken,bag cheese and 2 cans of condensed soup cost us little. I stock up on condensed soup at holiday time for 49cents a can and buy enough for the year. I can get bags of cheese for 1.29 and will buy 20. frozen veggies 69 cents and will buy 20. This is how I can afford to stockpile. My deep freezer has been invaluable. Just found ground beef at Kroger for $1.99 and bought everything they had so we have beef for quite a while and will only use half at a time. About 2 mos ago at our local store the dairy manager was selling 1/2 gal of milk for 25 cents. I bought 50 of them and froze them all. We still have plenty left. Soothe things I stockpile we plan our meals around what we have. We still love our chips and snacky things,but we are able to fit that in too. I buy Aldi’s wipes which are excellent for 99 cents and diapers are $4.99. I live in the Midwest so we only have less than 2.5 mos to have a farmers market.

  • Katie says:

    I do it for $230 a month for the four of us. I shop a TON at Aldi, get bread that is $1 or less (at Dollar Tree or on sale), and I plan our menu based on the weekly sales. I keep an eye out for short-dated meat and freeze it. I almost never buy beef unless I can find it for under $3/lb. This means I use a lot of ground turkey instead. The bulk of our meat is pork and chicken. I like to use beans a lot and I buy them dry, cook and freeze them in 1.5 cup allotments. I make at least one vegetarian meal a week – often black bean stew, lentil soup, couscous and black bean casserole, etc. Most everything is from scratch – unless I have a coupon I don’t buy biscuits in a tin, condensed soups, powdered mixes, etc. This week’s menu is: crockpot chicken cacchiatore (made with chicken quarters or thighs, whatever I bought on sale and froze), potato soup and biscuits, pan-fried tilapia (fish is my biggest splurge item), crockpot pork roast, spaghetti and turkey/pork meatballs and various leftovers.

  • Erica says:

    I buy large packages of chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts. When I get home I cut them up in different ways- diced for pot pies, strips for stir fry or wraps, larger chunks for casseroles, etc. They are cheaper per pound and you can get many meals out of one package.

  • Lindsey Bell says:

    First of all, good for you!! Yah! Following Dave Ramsey’s principles will change your life in such a great way:) My family of 4 spends 275 on groceries, and I include toiletries and diapers in this amount too. It’s doable, and you can do it!

    Some tips:
    1. Buy generic.
    2. Stop buying the following items: pop/soda, juice, bottled water, alcohol, tobacco, cigarettes, and junk food. We rarely have chips, cookies, or other luxuries at home.
    3. Use less meat when you cook. If a recipe calls for 1 lb ground beef, use half of that. Most recipes like spaghetti are just as good with less meat.
    4. Don’t buy paper plates, cups, napkins, paper towels, etc.
    5. Only use coupons when they actually save you money. If generic is cheaper, buy generic.
    6. Always shop with a list (and not when you’re hungry).
    7. Plan your meals in advance and shop with a list. (This is HUGE!)

    If you’re interested, I also have a free ebook for all my newsletter subscribers (I send out emails like 4 times a year, so I won’t spam.) Financial Freedom on a Fixed Income: 7 Steps to Get You Started. You can sign up for my newsletter and get the ebook here:

  • Heather says:

    Find a hometown butcher! I asked some locals in my area where I can get good quality but inexpensive meat. I was pointed to a little mom and pop store about ten to fifteen minutes away. I haven’t purchased Supermarket or grocery store meat since. Most of their prices were half the cost of Wegmans and it’s a better quality meat. I go once a month, buy all my meat (and seafood) for the month, go home and separate it into meal portions and freeze it. I’ve cut my meat bill in half, easily, if not more. Good luck!

  • That seems like a very low amount for groceries. I guess it depends on where you live, but I would wonder if you are getting enough to eat on such a small grocery budget. I cook from scratch, buy almost everything on clearance or mark-down, and we eat very simply but we spend about 4x what your family is spending per month. Granted, I have kids a few years older and 4 kids instead of 2, but I couldn’t do it even with 2 kids on $200 a month where I live! =) My sis-in-law and brother are tiny eaters and they have 1 child who is 2 years old and they spend over $300 per month. If you can’t spend any more than $200 a month, perhaps you would qualify for WIC to get some groceries and possibly grab some staples at a local food shelf or food bank? If you do have the means to spend a little more, I would double the grocery budget. It takes AT LEAST $20 a week per person in the family to eat a fairly balanced diet. That’s less than $1 per meal per person and that doesn’t include snacks or extras. Here are my most frugal meals:
    Elk (given to us) and potatoes
    Chili and cornbread
    Spaghetti and salad
    Baked potatoes
    Grilled cheese and tomato soup
    Homemade pizza
    Brown rice and vegetable stir-fry
    Bean burritos
    Ramen noodles (rarely, since they are so unhealthy)
    Vegetable soup

    • I think it really does depend on where you live! We live in the Twin Cities, MN and our monthly budget for groceries, toiletries, paper products and our CSA is $180 for a family with 2 adults and 2 almost-8-year-olds. We don’t have allergies or eat organic (though our CSA is organic) in general – if I can find a great deal we’ll buy organic but otherwise it’s just “regular”. We find it very do-able but I do think it depends on where you live!

      Miss your blog Lindsey!

      • Ack – that should be $160/month! Sorry!

      • Wow, that’s amazing that you can do that Lea! Last week I didn’t have a menu plan and a quick run into the store for ingredients for one meal or one day’s food was at least $30! We don’t have allergies or a special diet either and we eat mostly meat-free meals. Groceries are high here in rural WY though!

        • Don’t you hate it when that happens? I always really feel frustrated when I have to run to the store since I didn’t plan ahead! 😛

          One thing I noticed is that since my husband can’t eat cheese (we make homemade pizza without cheese on his part!), we spend a lot less than many people do. I realized a little while ago that cheese costs more per pound than meat in many cases! I decided to check it out after Brandy (The Prudent Homemaker) made a comment that pizza was one of her more expensive meals. It probably is for us too but we make it anyway! 🙂 Also a huge number of our veggies for the entire year come from our CSA – we rarely buy veggies at the store, though I do occasionally buy canned corn and green beans on sale since I don’t can myself.

          I think rural towns can be harder on the pocket book for groceries than larger cities. I remember the town my Dad grew up in – rural North Dakota – had a very expensive local grocery store. The nearest chain store was over an hour away and I think they made a killing on mark up because they knew they had a captive audience! Blessings to you as I know you feed your family well on a tight budget!


  • Lara says:

    Could you start using swagbucks? I get a five dollar card to amazon every week when I am dilident, and you could use it to order food. $20 a month would expand your budget by 10%. Another crazy idea would be bartering. Maybe watch a friend’s kids for an afternoon, and she brings you dinner…

  • Jessica says:

    If you are a Sams Club member, if at all possible get there as soon as your membership allows you to get in…check out the reduced for quick sale meats. I went this past week and got 2 packages of Angus Stew Beef for $8 a tray (not sure the weight) and a package of 8 pork chops for $9. The stew I portioned into 5 meal portions and I know I can butterfly the thick pork chops to stretch them. They also have chicken breast, ground beef, roasts, pork roasts and ribs on reduced often. Good Luck!

  • Jennifer says:

    Our budget is around $200 a month. We shop two weeks at a time – and run out on the off weeks for any really good coupon deals to add to the pantry. In fact, we coupon pretty heavily. My husband bakes most of our bread, and makes all our pasta. No one in our family has a problem with gluten, thank goodness – in fact, he adds vital wheat gluten to a lot of his breads and pastas, and that adds extra protein. We eat a lot of beans and lentils. We cook as much from scratch as we can. His two daughters live with us every other week, but they’re here every day after school and HUNGRY, and during soccer season, we feed them a lot of dinners, too.

    One of the biggest sources of our success is variety – we eat a lot of Asian, Mexican, and Italian dishes – this two week cycle actually doesn’t have anything “American” on it!

  • Korina says:

    It seems to me that there have been a lot of unhealthy suggestions. Replacing meat with pasta and bread does not seem to be a very healthy solution. I do not adhere to a food budget because I believe that eating healthy food is a good investment in my families health and future but I also do not like spending an exorbitant amount of money on food.
    We eat a mostly plant based diet (ALL plant based food has protein in it!) I realize that doesn’t work for everyone but here are something that work for us:
    – buy in bulk, lentils, beans, steel cut oats, popcorn, granola, flour etc… I store in mason jars on the shelf and the appealing display makes them more fun to cook!
    – Salad at every meal- lettuce is inexpensive and good for you- a simple salad helps fill you up at least a little bit.
    – Soup at least once a week- beans or lentils help hearty it up and you can use fresh or frozen veggies, potato soup is also a great cheap filling meal. I freeze the leftover veggie soup in single serving size for an easy lunch
    – Stir fry with fresh or frozen veggies and any protein on hand over rice or quinoa. We do it with a “sauce buffet” so each family member can make it the flavor they like
    -Crock pot beans (pinto or black) Add some corn, salsa and a little cheese in a tortilla- I make a big batch and stick in the freezer for another go-to easy dinner or lunch
    – We have pasta once a week/2 weeks and I try and load up my sauce with any veggies I can.
    -Lentils! They are so good in soups and as a main dish. Our favorite dish is curried lentils with poached eggs- it looks so fancy but is easy and cheap to make!
    -Grilled pizza. Ask your local pizza parlor if they will sell you a ball of dough- most will for cheap. Spread a little olive oil on it and stick it on the grill, flip it load up with toppings and finish cooking- this is our favorite summer meal and a great one for having friends over because everyone can make their own- have everyone bring one or two toppings to the party and its a super cheap way to entertain!

  • Glenda says:

    I agree with the reader who suggested Bountiful Baskets. If you live anywhere near a site, I would encourage you to give it a try. I plan my meals after I get my basket and then just fill in with a few dairy products and meats at the grocery. We’re eating so much healthier then we were previously and so much cheaper!

  • stacey says:

    I skimmed through the replies, but didn’t see this suggestion: if you live somewhere close to water, go fishing! and this fall? get a hunting license!
    A staple in our household is venison – my husband and oldest stock our freezer with 2-3 deer a year. They also hunt pheasant, goose and duck every fall and they fish year-round. We live extremely close to dozens of lakes though which makes this an inexpensive hobby that provides food for the family.

  • I think some of this depends on where you live! We have an incredible Farmer’s Market with super cheap prices for a lot of things and a wonderful CSA that we buy food through as well as our chain supermarkets. We have a $160 per month ($40/week) budget for groceries, paper products, and toiletries which includes all the farmer’s market shopping and our CSA for a family of 4 – 2 adults and 2 almost-8-year-olds. Where my parents live this would be almost impossible as the grocery stores have much higher prices and there really isn’t much of an alternative for purchasing things.

    I would recommend checking out alternative food sources – farmers or local growers, a farmer’s market, a local meat market (we can get 100lbs of meat for $2.99/lb including steaks, roasts, etc in a variety of chicken, pork, and beef), CSAs, etc. I also recommend buying things at their absolute lowest price unless you feel like you have the wiggle room in the budget.

    Brandy mentioned her site and so did a few other people – The Prudent Homemaker. I’m going to mention it again because she had GREAT ideas and is such an inspiration to read.

    Best wishes!

    • Penny says:

      Wow. I am in the Twin Cities, too, and have a hard time getting below $50 week for three people–what CSA do you belong to?

      • HI Penny,

        I answered this one above (in a reply to another comment). Unfortunately, our CSA is full this summer already.

        Our CSA costs $300 for the summer – about $6/wk year round (we eat from our CSA year round since I blanch and freeze and make pickles) or $20 per box. Most people who don’t preserve can get by with 1/2 share for a family of 4!

        Email me through my blog if you have further questions!
        If you’d like our

  • Jennifer says:

    How I wish to be able to spend $200/month on groceries. Mine averages around $800 to $1000/month for a family of 4 which includes 2 boys 12 (but he is gtube fed) and 9. I also have a daycare in my home and could have anywhere from 2 to 12 kids a day. I’m going to be taking notes on these posts and checking out websites. I would be happy with $600/month.

  • Christina says:

    So many great ideas. I would add:

    -find a bread outlet, I pay $.50 per loaf for organic bread, that’s cheaper than a bread machine
    -buy costco rotisserie chickens at $4.99 that is a smokin deal. remove meat, use sparingly over 3-4 meals, cook skin and bones overnight in crockpot for broth.
    -price match at Walmart, especially for produce. use all the ads for your local stores (and find ads for local ethnic stores, they have the best deals)

  • Allie says:

    My family eats a very minimal amount of meat, mostly because I don’t really like it and I cook all the meals. Depending on where you live and who your friends are, you may be able to barter for meat with local hunters and fisherman. We catch tons of fish and my husband hunts. I am more than happy to trade with friends and family who have gardens or other skills. Some of our favorite non-meat meals are stir fry rice with eggs, fajitas with black beans, and chowder style soups.

    In addition to Money Saving Mom, I love to read Mavis gardens, barters, coupons and reclaims to get the grocery bill for 4 under 100 dollars a month.

  • Bev says:

    When we were a family of 3 we lived on $80 a month in 2008. Then, we moved up to $120 for a few years. Now, we have a baby, so we are a family of 4 but he doesn’t eat much yet (he is 4 months old), and since grocery prices have increased, so did our budget. We now spend an average of $150-200 a month. Our daughter is 9 and is starting to eat more or double of some things, so we are more towards the $200 side these days. If you want to do this, it takes work – most things homemade is the way to go and save money. If I have a month where I don’t plan and just ‘wing’ it and buy processed, packaged things – we overspend almost all the time, so I can’t do that!! I also have no time, or want to take the time, for coupons.

    There have been various ways we have done this, one is only having meat on weekends. I can make 1 pound of ground beef last all weekend by making a lasagna, which lasted us 2 days. Then the next weekend, we have Chicken Divan, which only used 1 1/2 pounds of shredded chicken and that meal lasted us all weekend too. So the only thing I bought meat-wise on this plan was 2 pounds of ground beef and 3 pounds a boneless/skinless chicken ONCE a month! The rest of the meals through the week were meatless, although sometimes we would put pepperoni on our pizza.

    If you want anymore help or info, let me know and I can direct you to my posts on 2 different blogs I have with meal ideas, meal plans and help with freezer cooking.

  • Sarah says:

    The biggest money saver for my family of 7 is getting free family share of a CSA for absolutely free. For 17-20 weeks we will be getting a big amount veggies that are free. I was searching for CSA’s in my state and couldn’t afford the upfront cost, even if I did save money in the long run. But after months of searching I came upon 1 CSA that delivers. I asked some questions and on my way home, in order to get my free share, once a week I will be delivering CSA baskets to the elderly that can’t get out themselves. I was so excited for this which will save us lots of money. My advice would be look for CSA’s in your area and see if any offer a delivery service or work option. If there is a delivery, call and inquire about it, who knows, you may stumble upon one that will be free for you. Or if you find one you really like, ask them if they could do a delivery service, as an added option for their CSA. You never know what could happen unless you ask.

  • jess says:

    Tofu is a good cheap meat replacer. Or if you want something like taco meat or sloppy joes you can use this stuff called tvp (texturized vegetable protein) it’s from soy too. They’ll both require some extra flavoring to be just as yummy. I like to add something kinda smokey tasting to the tvp for sloppy joes like mesquite flavoring or something. You might also like to add some extra oil or other fat to the tofu or tvp so it tastes a little more like the meat would.

  • Shannon says:

    I only buy meet when it is on managers special. The expiration date is usually close but I freeze it until I need it. 🙂

  • Rhonda Hall says:

    Deer meat….get on the Highway patrol list for when someone hits a deer, they call and see if you want it…just the cost of harvesting..or go deer hunting.

  • asmith says:

    My tip would be to not go to the grocery store more than once a week. Less if possible.

  • Julie M says:

    Pick up a copy of the “More with Less” cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre. There are meatless recipes and suggestions on how to “gather up the fragments” to use up leftover food at the end of each chapter. There are recipes for homemade mayonnaise and salad dressings.

  • Jenn says:

    The answer is TVP. Textured Vegetable Protien, sounds kinda gross but it is a great cheap alternative to meat and/or meat “stretcher” if you will. once you get used to cooking with it and how to flavor it, you really wont miss ground beef/turkey that much! This way you are not always stuck using beans to get your protien cause that gets kinda old after awhile!!

  • Tina says:

    We used to have a Sam’s Club membership, but I think shopping with coupons (on household/personal care items at places like Walgreens and CVS) and getting groceries at Aldi you can do better. I used to go thru a LOT of flour and sugar because I had a stay-at-home mom business baking pies and jam, but Aldi and even Walmart brand was cheaper than the big bags at Sam’s. I made up a notebook with a spreadsheet where I listed all the items I bought regularly, then I spent time (without my kids) just going into each store – Walmart, Aldi and Sams, and putting the unit price down for each item – per ounce or pound or whatever. Is there a store near you that doubles coupons like Kroger? that will be a huge help!

  • Ginger says:

    Do you have access to ethnic grocery stores? I have found some deals there.

  • Veronica says:

    I found that if I put everything out on serving platters, it all gets eaten. When I serve dinner I don’t just slice the roast (or chicken) and put it on a plate. I put only some of the meat on the serving platter. The rest I reserve for soups, casseroles, etc. If I don’t have enough in reserve to make a meal out of, I save it in the freezer until I do have enough. This week it’s been all about ham since we had that for Easter. So it goes in sandwiches, pastas, egg dishes, and then finally the bone goes in bean soup. Fried rice, frittatas, wraps, etc really help to make food stretch. You can add more veggies than meat to all these things. Also, some recipes call for a lot of ingredients and it all adds up. I can often substitute or drop certain ingredients to save money.

    • Tina says:

      I have been very happy with meat purchases from zaycon foods https://zaycon

      You can also split it with another family. We have bought the salmon and ham and I have heard the chicken is very good as well 🙂

      I usually just repackage into meal portions and fill up the freezer.

  • MrsWJAA says:

    We had a $200 budget for the two of us per month (however, when I cooked, I usually made enough for 4+ servings so..), what I did to make our budget work was this: at the beginning of the budget period I would sit down with a paper, pencil, and hubby and we would discuss what our favorite meals were/what we’d been wanting to try, and I would jot them down as we went. I tried to aim for about 15-20 or so different main dishes (because we always just threw together some veggies from the freezer or some type of potato dish as a side). I would then sort them into categories by which meat was the main ingredient (if there was meat in it).. i.e. chicken, ground beef, stew meat, etc.. After that, I’d figure out how many pounds of each type of meat was needed per recipe/per month (note: When a recipe called for 1 pound of meat, I would use aprx 1/2 pound instead.. or, in the case of chicken… instead of one whole breast per person, we would either use one tender or 1/2 breast to save on meat and we never missed it. Also, for us, it was cheaper to buy the frozen chicken breasts/tenders when on sale rather than the whole chicken because we could never eat a whole chicken.. one cornish hen lasted 2+ meals for us). Once I knew that I needed aprx. 4lb ground beef, etc.. I could shop the bulk meat section for better savings and then just put everything away in recipe size packages once I got home…. We also found better savings by purchasing bulk bags of frozen veggies because we could then use half a cup or whatever when we needed it rather than open a whole can that we didn’t need at the time.. plus, we only allowed for one ‘splurge’ item per month.

  • Nichole says:

    Wow – these responses are amazing! I’m trying to be better at budgeting (right now we’re kind of do what feels right and hope it works out) now that we have a 15 month old and another on the way plus trying to get down debt (student loans and mortgage).

    I always feel discouraged about meal prepping and saving money and realize it’s all about planning it out and taking the time to really think it through. We’re vegans so I feel like we should be able to make a decent dent in groceries if ya’ll can do it while still buying meat! Thanks for the inspiration fellow readers – I’m taking your advice and cracking down on our budget now!

  • Niki says:

    Buy a whole turkey. It’s a lot of work but if you buy a whole turkey you can have turkey and potatoes one night, turkey skillets with rice and bean and veggies another, turkey pot pie (very cheap and filling and Easy!), turkey salad, turkey chili…and of course when you run out of meat you can make soup from the bones. Also, most of the dishes freeze really well.

    Another way to use very little meat but get the flavor is using bacon, if your family eats it. I buy 8 pounds when it is bogo free and freeze them. Adding a few slices to pasta dishes, soups or quesadillas or salads or just about anything gives a nice flavor for just a few dollars.

  • Here is one of my favorite meatless options, it only has 6 main ingredients. I typically use only about 1/2 as much cheese as they suggest. You can omit the cheese for budgeting reasons and you will be at only 5 main ingredients.

    Also, check out Eating Well on $1 a Day blog. It’s bit outdated, but he give some amazing tips on eating well with less. Even if decide not to use coupons the way he does, I’m sure you will be able to take away plenty of helpful tips.

    Good luck and happy eating!

  • Amy says:

    My husband typically thinks it’s not a meal if we don’t have meat. We cook whole chickens freqently (around $5 each) and can typically get 3 dinners and a few lunches out of them. The first day we’ll have roast chicken; rice and veggies; day 2 I’ll make, chicken fried rice or chicken pot pie; day 3 I’ll make chicken stock and chicken and rice or chicken noodle soup.

    Whole bone-in pork loins are much cheaper than buying roasts or chops, and they’re easy to cut apart yourself. We got them onsale for around $1.00/lb and then cut them into roasts, chops and even a rack of ribs.

    For beef we buy 1/3 cow per year. I don’t know how much we save (because I don’t check beef prices at the store) but the meat is better!

  • Suzanne H says:

    If you haven’t already, watch the sales for a couple of months and figure out what the cheapest prices are for your area – only buy when items go on sale @ that price and stock up as much as you can. Set aside some of your budget (even just a couple of $s) for when that happens so you have some extra $ to stock up with. As everyone has said on here, stretch your meat out as much as possible. I bought a ham before Easter last week for $0.99/lb (CHEAP for where I live). We had ham for Easter, we had leftovers for ham sandwiches, I cubed some up and made a ham braid, I made a frittata with some of the cheap eggs I got @ Easter and we’ve been making ham and eggs for breakfast. We still have a little bit of ham left and the ham bone which I will use to make bean soup in the next week or so. So that $9 ham has made many, many meals. Also, use cheap meats – cheap cuts of beef cooked in the crock pot for a long time become tender and delicious. Add in a few potatoes and carrots and some seasoning and you have a very cheap, delicious meal. I also use tuna A LOT esp. when it goes on sale and I have a coupon. I make tuna noodle casserole. Buy cheap frozen veggies (usually mixed veggies but I’ll also use whatever I can get cheaply), make a roux with butter and flour – mix in milk to make a bechamel sauce then throw in steamed veggies, tuna and cooked noodles (buy when on sale and with a coupon), mix together and bake. You can top with cheese or crackers or bread crumbs (use the heels of bread or stale bread). I know it’s hard right now but if you can try to focus on stocking up when cheap and getting a little stockpile going, it will help so much. Just like Dave Ramsey’s program – your stockpile will snowball and help you stretch your budget further and further. Debt free is WORTH IT so hang in there!

  • allie says:

    My husband and I are meat lovers and do not care for beans. We try to keep our budget around $200.00/ month. Here is what we do. Every sunday after church we hit the grocery store for the meat in the marked down bin. Usually we find great bargains and the meat is always good. When it is in the bin you need to use or freeze that day. With our Seal A Meal we were able to stock up on burger, pork, whole chickens and inexpensive cuts of beef. I freeze them in small packages and stretch with rice, pasta and potatoes. I also use a lot of canned vegetables and stock up when I have coupons. Having a stock pile has been a life saver. Crock Pot vege soup with tiny meatballs is delicious add barley and lots of veges and you have several meals. Roast a whole chicken cut it up and freeze.
    I also do what I call my investment cooking. I spend a day with 3 crock pots and the oven going full steam using all the meat in the freezer to make, meatballs, chili, soup, tacos, meat sauce, stew, roast “beast” hehe, chicken divan, chicken soup, stuffed chops etc. I also fry up fresh peppers and onions to freeze. Freeze whole tomatoes to add to meals. That way all our meals are already cooked, just need warmed up add the potatoes etc. This really helps us not to go out to eat. Hope this helps. Have a Blessed Day All

  • Bethany says:

    I would also like to add, becoming an avid reader of frugal books and websites- such as this one- is a great way to save. My husband and I went from a weekly budget of $70-$80 per week on groceries (food, toiletries, miscellaneous, etc.) to $40-$50 per week, just by picking up a few tips from reading, such as couponing, price matching, meal planning, and buying generic brands. We’ve also have reduced our eating out expenses from $300 to $100- because if you have a good and appetizing meal plan, all the ingredients you need, and a clean kitchen you’ll be a lot less tempted to eat-out. Plus, I’ve found that it makes date nights and going out with friends all the more special.

    I also really enjoy using Dave’s cash/envelope system. It has helped us tremendously in sticking to our budget while shopping. When the envelope is empty at the end of the month or getting low- this can be the most exhilarating time! You either have to roll up your sleeves and get creative, learn to do without it, or wait until next month. 🙂

    Good luck and keep plugging away! Your on the right track! 🙂

  • danielle says:

    If your grocery budget includes baggies, foil and wraps is to reuse those items till they fall apart. If you are spending $6 a month on these items it could be reallocated to 2 gallons of milk instead.
    Good luck, you will be fine with the help of your friends here 🙂

  • Kari says:

    If you have a GFS near you and you’ve never been inside you are missing out a goldmine!! Bulk items without the yearly membership fee like Sam’s and I think the prices are much better! For example, they had spiral hams the week of Easter for $1.49 a lb! We buy their ground beef (very lean-we don’t even have to drain the pan). It comes in 10 lb rolls and equals out to $1.69 per lb. Their boneless skinless chicken breasted are $2.19 a lb which is very good for our area. We get 3 lbs of bacon for under $10 (it’s around $4 a lb here normally.) We love their sweet pancake mix (rumor has it that it’s the same mix inoperable uses!) We also love their biscuit and muffin mixes. Their prices for flour and sugar are great! We can
    get 2 dozen eggs (really good eggs!) For around $2.50. Their prices on frozen fruits and veggies are awesome too! I can’t talk about them enough!

  • cwaltz says:

    The trick is to use meat as supplemental to the other components of the meal not the main event. Remember a serving of meat for an adult is around 3 to 4 ounces. With your littles you probably should only need a half a pound per meal.

    As others pointed out stretch meat for tacos with ranch style beans(chicken or beef). Use half the amount of meat in spaghetti. Add 1/2 pound of chicken to deluxe stir fry veggies and 2 packs of ramen(sans salty noodle seasoning) tossed with 1/8 cup of soy vay teriyaki or soy sauce. Add a can of tuna and a bag of peas or broccoli to Annies mac and cheese(optional add potato chips to top.) Ravioli can also be pretty inexpensive. Add alfredo and broccoli and cheese to a bag of it( optional add a diced up package of Hormel ham.) Most of these ideas are well under $10 for a full meal for 4 and since your littles are still little may provide you with leftovers for lunch.

    Good luck!

  • Karen O'Keeffe says:

    I have set a limit of $1.99 per pound on meat. You just never know what will be on sale for that price. I am selective about quality, but even at this low price I often find chicken, ground beef and roasts.
    Another trick is to use flavor enhancements to your meat dishes, creating more meat flavor, with out using more meat. These enhancements include things like using soy sauce instead of salt, adding Worcestershire sauce, and cooking with stock (that you can make at home). I’ll bet the readers have more great flavor enhancement tricks up their sleeves. I’d love to hear them!

  • Soup for dinner, at least twice a week. You can buy two whole chickens on sale for $.79/lb each, butcher them yourself:

    And make 10 quarts of homemade chicken stock using this method:

    Make cheap soups like Minestrone or Tortilla that don’t require meat (but include nutritious beans), saving your meat for nights where you would enjoy meat (liked baked chicken with rice).

    Each of those batches is enough for us (also a family of four with a 5yr and 3yr) for one entire dinner, plus another if we supplement with half-sandwiches. Do this twice a week (so soup 2x, soup sand 2x for lunches/dinner) and by the end of the month, you’ll not only have eaten meat, but you’ll likely have stayed under budget, if nor freed up room for next month to buy other things you’ll need like butter/milk/eggs etc. You can do it!!

  • Janet says:

    First, congratulations on doing Financial Peace with Dave Ramsey. My husband and I just finished his program and it is SUCH a blessing! Groceries were my main target area of reduction as well. You are going pretty bold with $200, but it might can be done. We are at $400, and so far I have had leftover $ at that amount. Heres what I found…
    1. STOP going to the grocery store. Only go once a week…no matter!
    2. make your own laundry detergent- big savings! I prefer the powder. look on net for recipes
    3. Get Fix, Freeze, & Feast cookbook. Make food in bulk & freeze for whole month. Big time saver and $ saver. Since you’re on a budget, check it out at your local library so you don’t spend $ to buy it. Other freezer meal books at library too.
    4. Ask your local butcher when they usually put their meats out reduced. Meat is good for 5 days after date, usually. Then cart over to the produce dept and ask them when produce goes out reduced. Get to know your grocer… they can be your best friend!
    Those are just a few of my suggestions. You are bold with $200, but with prayer anything can happen.

    • Tasanee says:

      Once a week rule- We have a twice a month rule. One for the big of the bulk trip and one to grab milk and another other small forgotten items. I have learned the less we go the less we spend. (We go to Costco every other month, and we make that one of our twice a month trips). It takes planning but it is worth it.

  • Elizabeth says:

    I love to cook a whole ham or turkey or chicken and see how many meals I can get out of it. For example, I recently baked a eight pound ham; I think I paid around $1.59 per pound for it. Besides the original meal I baked it for, I put three packs of fatty pieces in the freezer to cook with pinto beans later, used the leftovers for sandwiches for lunches, made hot ham and cheese sandwches on buns, diced some of it to add to red beans and rice, fried some with eggs for breakfast, and made ham and potato soup with the last of it. That’s around nine meals for the five of us by adding mostly just inexpensive things like rice, beans, eggs, and potatoes.

    I can get several meals out of a roasted turkey or a couple of roasted chickens (which I stock up on when I find them for 79 cents a pound). Sometimes we do get tired of so much of one kind of meat several days in a row, and if that happens I just put the rest in the freezer and use it another time. Shredded chicken and turkey and diced ham freeze very well in freezer bags.

  • Amber S says:

    Bountiful Baskets has been mentioned- awesome co-op. That’s about the only produce I buy. Phoenix area has Market on the Move- not sure if it’s anywhere else. I got boxes of produce there while visiting for just $10 total. You may want to look into free food in your area- we have three monthly food distributions in our small community that are completely free- one is a variety, one is produce, and one is mainly bakery products. It’s all donated by stores/growers at expiration and needs to be used or it will be thrown away! Food banks sometimes sell food very cheap also. I receive produce free from neighbors who have fruit trees or extra garden produce they won’t use. We share whenever we have extra too. You can get food free by couponing sometimes. I include meat in most of our meals, but it is often an ingredient, not the main meal. I only shop every 3-4 weeks, which saves a lot! If you’re not at the store, you can’t spend money. Besides, we live 45 minutes from a grocery store. I REFUSE to buy anything from a convenience store- I’ll do without it rather than pay exorbitant prices. Same thing with recipes- if it is an expensive ingredient, I will substitute, omit, or not use the recipe. My goal is to waste nothing- if God blesses us with an abundance of zucchini (or anything else), we eat and/or preserve it! I know it depends on your region, but I think your budget is attainable. I feed our family of 6 on $150 a month and we eat very well and very healthfully. One last thing- we don’t buy snacks or processed foods, since they are generally expensive and/or unhealthy. Good luck and may God bless your pursuit!

  • Amanda says:

    Here are another couple of money savers:

    Baked potatoes are a nice side with dinner or with chili. Make extra to dice up for home fries for breakfast or to put into burritos for lunch. Shred them, then form them with oil and spices to make your own tater tots.

    From Azure Standard we buy bulk polenta and make grits for breakfast or polenta as a dinner side. We also buy the creamy rice cereal that my kids love for breakfast.

    Chick peas are great roasted for a crunchy snack or made into hummus for lunch or a snack.

  • Anna says:

    What a coincidence- that’s OUR budget! (We are a family of three though- but a baby is on the way!)

    What I find is couponing is your best bet because you can get SO MUCH for free. Samples work great too- and not just food ones. I signed up for BirchBox for $10/month. I get top quality makeup products and they’re great for traveling as well! (Which comes in handy when you’re having to put more entertainment in bags for bored 6-year-olds!) Keep in mind places that double coupons and offer card discounts as well.

    As for an actual meal plan, I try to get fresh from the farmer’s market. It’s cheapest if you go in the afternoon when you can strike a good bargain. Of course, that’s not open all year-round. For the winter, I stick to Banquet HomeStyle meals. You have to put them together yourself, but they offer a great variety and sizable portions, and are less then $1 per person (where I am in KCMO). Then even have breakfast options for when cereal won’t do!

    Another great thing is Dollar Tree. I cannot stress this enough. Essentials like mouthwash, toothbrushes, body wash, movie-type goodies, hairbrushes… Even kitchen and garden decor/utensils and other home items are perfect here! Not to mention an absolute SAVIOR for birthday parties, (My boy is still raving about his last all-Dollar-Tree birthday!)

    Thrift stores are great for kitchen and other appliances if they let you test them. Mine is very reputable. Bought a Kitchen Aid toaster/egg poacher combo, Brookstone pillow remote, and even a Jack Lelanne juicer! I now make all my boy’s juice verses shelling out cash for boxes at the stores- and mine are ten times healthier!

    I understand how difficult it is living on a very limited budget, I feel for you and your family. Best of luck to you and God bless. 🙂

  • Tracy says:

    I grew up growing a garden & learned to can & freeze vegetables. I highly recommend it. You can grow what your family likes to eat. Also, my husband likes to hunt & fish. We freeze the meat & it has helped reduce oour grocery bill so much.

  • Heather says:

    There have been some great tips on here already. We are a family of 5(one 4 mths old and still on formula/diapers). Our budget for the month is $350(which includes formula and diapers so only about $250 for food). These are the tips I have- look for markdown meats and use cheaper cuts of meat. I rarely buy any meat over $2 pound and aim for $1 pound meats. So we generally eat alot of chicken. I buy whole chicken, which I cook in the crockpot and split into 2-3 meals. I also use the chicken broth for other recipes. I buy chicken drumsticks when they are on sale for $1 pound.This we do have as a meat “stand alone” meal. My husband will grill the chicken legs, or I cook them in the crockpot with bbq sauce. We do meatless meals alot at lunch, my husband is a hard core meat eater and refuses to eat a meal without it!! I usually cut the ground beef in half for things like spaghetti. I do add beans to things like tacos and burritos. We eat alot of potatoes and brown rice as meal stretchers. Also, look for easy recipes on things you can do yourself to save money. I make refried beans in the crockpot, they are super easy to do and saves a lot over buying the cans at the store. I rarely buy canned soups, I make a homemade cream sauce to use in recipes. I also rarely buy deli/lunch meats. I will use meat from a whole chicken to make chicken salad. We also do egg salad and tuna salad at lunch time. Try pairing a meaty sandwich, like chicken salad sandwich, with a really cheap soup, like split pea soup. That way you are getting the meat in, but it is still a very cheap meal. I agree on cutting down on cheese, it is more expensive than meat right now. If you do use it, see if you can cut the amount in half for your recipes. Breakfasts here are oatmeal, cream of wheat, eggs/toast, homemade pancakes, homemade biscuits and gravy, etc… Another easy meal is crockpot baked potato bar. You can cook your potatoes in the slow cooker all day, then top with whatever you have- chili, taco fixins, loaded, white sauce with broccoli, etc… I also suggest using whatver leftovers you have. If you have leftover rice you can make a quiche crust with it, use it for breakfast rice, add it to a soup or stew, use it in fried rice, etc….Try not to let anything get thrown out!! I have 3 boys, and they are still young but are big eaters. I buy lots of bananas and applesauce for healthy, inexpensive sides. Cut out the juice/sodas, if you still buy them. I also make homemade baby food, which is a ton cheaper than buying the small jars at the store. Try using different grains, like barley and quinoa, to make some of your meals more filling. For snacks, we buy popcorn kernels and make it in the microwave, I make granola bars, sometimes I will buy jello for the kids when it is on sale. I also do buy some things like animal crackers which are pretty cheap. I LOVE lentils, you can do so much with them. Lentil rice casserole is so good, and you can make it without cheese or just use 1/2 cup cheese for the topping. Honey lentils are delicious, there is a recipe on Stephanie O’Deas website at 365 days of slow cooking, it is awesome!! You can serve it as a side with brown rice, and then eat the leftovers the next day for lunch. Anytime I cook meat by itself I always make lentils and then the next day I eat them for lunch, since the meat is usually all gone. Anyways, I wish you the best, you can do it!!!

  • Mama Murrey says:

    My best tip is to pray over your budget and your menu. Ask God to help you be creative, to stretch your money, and to provide for you out of Heaven’s resources. Back when money was very tight for us, neighbors would bring over excess from their gardens, our piano students gave us food as thank you gifts, someone from church offered us all the green beans in her garden because her family didn’t like green beans, and friends gave us culls from their turkey farm. I don’t think these people knew we were struggling financially. I think God just moved them to give to us because I’d asked Him for help.

    Ask God to open your eyes to inexpensive or free food. My brother drove past five huge pear trees on his way to work, asked the owner if he’d want the pears at harvest, and the owner was glad to have us haul off what would have been hundreds and hundreds of pounds of wasted fruit. One friend gets lots of geese from hunters every year. I’ve picked berries from fence rows and lots of apples from neighborhood trees. Recently a local cattle trailer accident yielded 12 free steers which my sister and my husband helped to butcher. We now have a freezer full of free hamburger! (This happened a few days after my sister had prayed for cheap meat!)

    Grow mint tea in a garden or pot. It makes wonderful hot or cold tea, and is much cheaper than store-bought drinks.

    Another blog with very practical tips about food is

    Pray for creative ways to use up the free or inexpensive food God will send you. It takes a LOT of creativity for 200 pounds of pears. : )

  • leah says:

    Dave says you should spend 5-15% of your income toward food. This includes food and eating out. As many have said, $200 may not be doable in your area. As a budget coach, I will tell you: Yes, you can coupon, etc. but remember to get a good *value* for the dollar. Hamburger Helper may be cheap, but that 50 cents may be better used on produce! Keep an eye on nutrition, pray for your “daily bread”, and don’t waste! This post may also give you some things to think about:

  • leah says:

    oh, and use cash!

  • Megan Saben says:

    Cabbage is another cheap, nutritious budget stretcher. I make “runza” filling by cooking a pound of ground beef with some onion and garlic, then adding half a head of cabbage, shredded, and some salt and pepper. Then I put some of it in five-inch squares of homemade dough (whatever bread I am making–I often make the filling one day and use it another time when I am making bread), pinch the corners up at the top, let them rise and bake. You can google for specific recipes, but this is the basic method and is also great for other leftovers: lentil sloppy-joes, pizza sauce and toppings, etc. Look for other recipes using cabbage, too!

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