If the thought of grocery shopping for your family leaves you feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and full of dread, you’re not alone. There are a lot of things your food should be, but it should not be complicated, bad for you, or expensive. Yet that’s what most people tell me they experience—every single week.
That’s why I’m here: to show you how to maximize good nutrition while minimizing your food budget and removing the complications. So you’re in and out of the store in no time without feeling distressed by what’s left (or more accurately, not left) in your wallet.
Whether you’re on a tight budget or just like a good challenge, trying to feed your family for less than $200.00 per week is not only doable. It’s fun!
Clipping coupons is one way to slash your grocery bill, but items around the perimeter of the store don’t typically come with coupons. However, after you learn to be a savvy shopper, often times you can create your entire meal plan based on what’s on sale each week, and you may really save a bundle.
Aside from smart shopping, it boils down to discovering how to use a variety of spices and food combinations, so you not only save time in the kitchen but save your family’s taste buds from boredom.
How the Government Weighs In
The United States Department of Agriculture has created a food plan which represents a nutritious diet at four different cost levels. The nutritional bases of the food plans are based on Dietary Reference Intakes, Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and MyPyramid food intake recommendations.
All four food plans are updated to current dollars by using the Consumer Price Index for specific food items.
USDA Cost of Food: The costs given are for individuals in 4-person families. For individuals in other size families, the following adjustments are suggested: 1 person—add 20 percent; 2 person—add 10 percent; 3 person—add 5 percent; 4 person—no adjustment; 5 or 6 person—subtract 5 percent; 7 (or more) person—subtract 10 percent.
Earlier I mentioned that trying to feed your family for under $200 a week is doable, and based on the USDA’s calculations, using the “low-cost plan,” we should be able to do so for just $193.90.
Grow Your Own
One of the things I have found extremely effective for reducing my grocery bill as well as maximizing nutrition is growing my own fruits and vegetables. Not only is this a great way to cut costs, but your whole family can get in on the action. Did you know kids who help grow their own vegetables are up to 5 times more likely to eat vegetables?
If you have a backyard where you can cultivate a small spot for a few plants, that’s awesome. If you live in an apartment or don’t have any available space, there are ways to make it work, but you’ll probably need to get a little more creative.
Currently in my garden, I have several types of lettuce as well as spinach, kale, cucumbers, tomatoes, spaghetti squash, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, a peach tree, a lemon tree, a date tree, and a variety of herbs.
Quick Tip: Fruits and vegetables freeze very well. Throughout the season, I freeze a variety of fruits and vegetables, so we can enjoy them when they are not in season.
Based on the fruits (and vegetables) of my labor, this only leaves a handful of items I need to purchase from the grocery store.
The Shopping List
Before you even step foot in the grocery store, it is crucial that you make a shopping list. This will eliminate any impulse buys and ensure you get everything for the week in one trip.
My shopping list includes some sources of lean proteins, healthy fats, and carbohydrates. Since my family drinks water as our primary source of hydration, I generally don’t purchase any beverages outside of almond milk, which is used in making our Low Carb Protein Shakes.
While we are on the subject of protein shakes, this is one area where I allow a little splurge. I won’t use any other brand of protein except BioTRUST Nutrition. Sure, I could find a cheaper, lower-quality protein elsewhere. But I want to avoid artificial ingredients and sweeteners, dangerous hormones, damaged proteins (due to high-heat processing), 90% insulin-spiking whey (even though they claim time-released), or one that leaves more than half of the protein never even being absorbed.
I feel that for under $3.00 per shake for everything I get with BioTRUST Low Carb Protein Blend (that I don’t get with other products), along with all the garbage I avoid, it’s a great deal. I think we can agree on that.
This is my go-to breakfast pretty much every morning outside of the weekends when I will cook eggs for the family. During the week, breakfast and lunch are meals we don’t typically eat together, so it is important for me to try to incorporate more shared meals on the weekends.
I take all the leftover vegetables and meats from the week and make an egg hash of sorts. Or if I am not pressed for time, I will make individual omelets.
So about that list… Here is what my list consisted of this week:
- Almond Milk
- Chicken breasts
- Greek yogurt
- Sweet potatoes
The Cost Breakdown
As I mentioned, having a protein shake for breakfast each morning is a healthy and delicious way to start your day. Not only do the shakes come in various flavors, but you can either mix with 8 ounces of water or almond milk.
*optional ingredient included for good measure: 8 ounces of almond milk per shake
$5.69 for 96 ounces of almond milk = $9.47
• Saturday – Sunday: 2-egg omelets X 4 people X 2 days = 16 eggs @ $1.89 per dozen = $2.52
*leftover ingredients from week = priceless
Budget $193.90 – $81.46 = $112.44 remaining for lunch and dinner
LUNCH & SNACKS
Lunches for my family typically consist of a salad with lettuce along with tomatoes and cucumbers, all from our garden. I include a protein source such as tuna or chicken and throw a few almonds on top. When packing lunches for my children, I also include some Greek yogurt with berries, or an apple with peanut butter, or celery with hummus. I generally have these foods on hand at home for snacks, as well.
My local grocery store has chicken breasts on sale this week for $2.99 per pound.
• 1 ounce of almonds X 4 people X 7 days = 28 ounces of healthy fat @ $7.49 per pound = $9.36
My local grocery store has almonds on sale for $7.49 for a 16-ounce bag.
• 8 ounces of Greek yogurt X 4 people X 3 days = 96 ounces @ $3.50 per 32 ounces = $10.50
My local grocer has Greek yogurt on sale for $3.50 for a 32-ounce container.
*My berries (fresh or frozen) are grown at home.
• 1 ounce of peanut butter x 4 people x 4 days = 16 ounces @ $2.75 per 16 ounces = $2.75
My local grocer has all-natural peanut butter on sale for $2.75 for a 16-ounce container.
*My apples are again grown at home.
Budget $112.44 – $38.31 = $74.13 remaining for dinner
Dinner for my family typically consists of whichever protein source I didn’t have for lunch, so this week, my dinner will include some type of fish. Since tuna was on special this week, this is what I went with.
My local grocer has fresh tuna on sale for $8.49 per pound.
• Spinach, kale, and spaghetti squash have been my go-to vegetables to include with dinner. I usually sauté these with fresh herbs also from the garden.
• ½ cup of sweet potato (100 grams) x 4 people x 4 days = 8 cups of sweet potato = $3.96
My local grocer has 1 pound of sweet potatoes on sale for $ 0.99 per pound.
• ½ cup of quinoa X 4 people X 3 days = 6 cups of quinoa @ $4.49 for 12 ounces = $8.98
My local grocer has quinoa on sale for $4.49 for 12 ounces.
Budget $74.13 – 57.51 = $16.62 left in the budget
Treat yourself to ice cream for dessert one night, or roll your remaining funds into your next week’s grocery allowance.
Each week you can change up your menu, and be sure to check out our blog as we post new recipes each Sunday. If you would like to make things easier on yourself, you could even do all of your cooking for the week on Sunday when you get home from the grocery store.
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