As much fun as it is to be able to stroll into a first-rate grocery store and buy whatever strikes my fancy,
it isn’t a luxury I’ve had often in my adult life. Since becoming a full-time stay-at-home wife and mother, it isn’t something I’ve done at all. We always have plenty of what we need, and enough of what we want, but I view my role as a privilege–one that I do not take lightly. So, I do my best to show my respect for my husband’s sacrifices by being as frugal as possible. That planning has inspired me to share with you how I’m making things work around here on less and less without feeling like we’re scrimping.
While a lot of the posts our there on menu planning and grocery lists are helpful, they also tend to adjust their prices based on how much of each ingredient you use each week. I understand the idea, but you can’t but 19 eggs or 1/2 a box of cereal. You have to purchase them in set amounts, so the full price is listed for you here. Of course, we had many of these on-hand so my grocery list for the next 2 weeks actually only has 13 items on it.
But, here we go– a complete 2-Week Menu for about $160. $158.56, actually (taxes not included).
A few notes:
1. When I say complete, I mean it. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and 2 snacks every day.
2. I did not include a few items that are used in super small amounts (like honey, butter, and vanilla).
3. I do not plan lunch for myself because I try to eat on leftovers or I make something very small and plain like rice with tuna and lemon pepper. (Don’t knock it till you try it). Anyway, I rarely cost anything for lunch…so I don’t count me.
4. We shop at Aldi’s. Almost every item will be more expensive if purchased at another store, even if you get a store brand. I don’t know how to help you there except to say–shop at Aldi if you have one anywhere close to you. It is an unbeatable bargain (even with couponing). Believe me I’ve tried.
Alright, here we go:
Step One: The Plan
You cannot use an extreme budget without a detailed plan.
There are hundreds of ways to approach this–here’s what works for my brain.
I take one week at a time, one meal at a time.
Husband doesn’t eat breakfast. Easy.
For this week, The kids are scheduled to eat cereal 2 days. (I eat oatmeal those days), 1 day we all eat muffins. I am making spice cake/pumpkin bread which will last at least 3 days, and one day of Eggs & Pancakes.
I do this for every meal.
The kids have 2 snacks per day every day. (They’re boys and eat a ton). That means I better have 14 snacks prepared to last us or we’re scrounging for something to eat.
Lunch is tricky because I am picky, husband is never home for lunch and the boys eat kid food, so that’s why it’s divided all funky. It takes some extra thought.
Our week will ultimately look like this:
To be honest, I don’t assign specific food for a particular day. I simply know what we have planned & purchased & mark it off when we’ve used that many days of it, but I thought it might be more helpful to see this way.
Step Two: Repeat.
I go through the process again for another full week.
This list doesn’t look nearly as complicated–mostly because I carry over a lot of the supplies and plans from week one.
Step 3: The Master List
I discovered this is where I make the most mistakes. I used to either plan for tons of “just in case” items we didn’t end up using or I would short-change us on something we’d have to return to the store for. That’s why this is so much better.
I start by going through each meal group and just listing every item that I will need to make or prepare the meal. I have kept a pricebook, so the prices are easy to find.
Step 4: Put it in a spreadsheet
You might be able to skip this if you are better at math than I am, but calculators and I don’t really get along, plus it’s easier to add something in last minute and still get an accurate total.
|Muffins (Martha White Mix)||2||pks||$1.25||each||$2.50|
|Pancake Mix||1||box||$1.49||32 oz||$1.49|
|Spice Cake Mix||1||box||$1.00||SALE||$1.00|
|Fruit Snacks (4 pks)||1||box||$1.42||6 pk||$1.42|
|Fruit (Apples/Oranges)||3||lb bag||$2.79||$8.37|
|Cheese (block to cut for snack cubes)||1||block||$1.69||$1.69|
|Bread (12 pieces)||1||loaf||$0.85||$0.85|
|Canned Pasta (Ravioli)||1||jar||$1.00||$1.00|
|Sliced Cheese (3 slices)||1||pk||$2.07||8 slices||$2.07|
|Frozen Meals (1.85)||3||meals||$1.85||$5.55|
|Frozen Meals (1.69)||3||meals||$1.69||$5.07|
|Whole Chicken (.85/lb, usually about $6)||2||chickens||$6.00||$12.00|
|Juice (frozen concentrate)||3||apple||$0.99||$2.97|
|Juice (frozen concentrate)||2||grape||$1.69||$3.38|
|Kool Aid (5 pks)||1||bundle||$0.99||12 pks||$0.99|
|Cherry Pepsi||2||cases||$3.70||12 pks||$7.40|
|Coke Zero||2||cases||$3.70||12 pks||$7.40|
That’s it. Careful planning means food gets used to it’s fullest. For instance in week 2, I know we will have scraps left over of the fruity rice cereal that my kids like. I took that and for about $1.50 more planned krispy rice treats that can carry over to snack time the next week for us all.
Some More $ Saving Tips
- Meat is always the priciest part of grocery shopping. By keeping a Pricebook for one month straight (I update mine every 3 months because prices change), you can easily switch out a more expensive recipe featuring chicken or bacon for a simple ground beef recipe when things are tight.
- Much to my husband’s chagrin, we now have one meal every week that is meatless. Ultimately, no one complains when there’s spaghetti on the table even if it is meatless, but that simple step saves us a minimum of $2.79 for that meal.
- Know your style!
I love to cook from scratch, but I also know that certain recipes are too time-consuming to be worth it. I know that fresh potatoes are so cheap for mashing…but I also know I will NEVER take the time to boil and mash them, so buying them for mashed potatoes would ultimately be a waste of money because the majority would go bad.
- Prepare for the indulgences.
My family isn’t big on the snacky sweets like Hostess or Little Debbie; however, my husband and I do drink soda every day. Even though it’s a big expense, budgeting it ultimately saves money so we aren’t stopping by a gas station to satisfy our craving.
If you have any questions or would like more info on anything, please leave a comment! Share this post with people you know could benefit from it and pass it on.