This is not your everyday, average meal plan. Learn how to cook like your great-grandma did, with little waste, and stretching what you have (including your dollars).
The point of this meal plan is to help you be smart with your money.
Feed your family of four a week of dinners with a shopping cart maximum of $114.31.
Eat more – spend less!
Use frugal ingredients to make dinners, without eating beans and rice or pasta every night.
These are dinners for regular families living on a budget.
In this post: Shopping Cart ~ Recipes ~ Printable List ~ Notes ~ Pinterest Boards
I made the assumption that your cupboards were completely bare, so you can only improve on the numbers here based on your circumstances. If you are really broke alternate your beans and rice with meals like this to keep variety in your diet while improving your nutrition.
I went with the theory that you had a limited amount of dollars to feed your family for a week, after that you will still have groceries from this trip to work with the schtuff in your pantry. It is cheaper in the long run to buy a five pound bag of flour, but if you have not-enough-freakin-dollars you may have to buy the two pound bag so you can get tomatoes as well. If you want to be really frugal you have to shop for a longer time frame, or be really good about buying ingredients you need when there are sales so you don’t have to pay the on-demand price when you run out.
I have many tips for pinching your pennies and stretching your food budget. I focus a lot on avoiding waste, since wasted food is wasted money (you bought the ingredients for that science experiment you’re tossing from the depths of the fridge). The goal is to get more food with less money.
I have pulled these recipes from my fabulous June monthly meal plan to show you how I manage to squeeze the last tasty bits from my grocery budget.
If you want to be able to make decisions on the fly you should print out the whole post (or at least the list section) and bring it with, since I had to simplify the list a lot for the printable. This list includes both what you need so you can shop your pantry, and the cheapest item you can buy for the fewest number of dollars. The PDF just includes the item to buy.
Download the seasonal fruits and vegetables guide image from The Vintage Mixer to your phone and have a handy reference with you
10 cloves whole garlic = 2 heads = $1.38
6 ears fresh sweet corn (save cob for stock) = $2.40
1/4 head green cabbage = $0.69
1 Japanese cucumber = $2.49
6 medium carrots 1 lb = $0.79(save scraps for stock, save tops to regrow greens for stock)
5 medium zucchini (yellow and green) $1.69/lb x 2 lb = $3.38
4 or 5 small radishes 1 bunch = $0.99
1/2 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper $1.99/lb = $0.67
1 red bell pepper $1.99/lb = $0.67
1/2 cup, fresh mint bunch = $1.99
1 lime = $0.34
1 tsp, fresh ginger root $2.99/lb = $0.19 (store in the freezer)
2 bunches celery (save extra bits for stock) $1.69 x 2 = $3.38
8 oz snow peas $3.99/lb = $2.00
6 scallions (“spring onion”) bunch = $0.69 (save your roots to regrow)
6 large yellow onions $1.39/lb x 2 = $2.78 (save scraps for stock but I don’t like skins in stock)
1/2 red onion $0.99/lb = $0.34
1 1/2 lb yellow potatoes $0.79/lb = $1.19
1/2 cup, parsley bunch = $1.19 (lasts 3 days, save stems for stock, freeze excess in oil or water in ice cube trays)
1/2 cup, cilantro bunch = $0.99 (skip if you think cilantro is blech, you can sub parsley, lasts 3 days)
fresh dill = $1.99
1 lemon = $0.99
1 head napa cabbage $0.50/lb = $0.63
1/4 cup 46 oz pineapple juice = $1.89
4 oz can green chiles = $1.29
15 oz can diced tomatoes = $0.69
1 tsp, 2 lb granulated sugar = $2.19
1 cup, 2 lb cornmeal = $2.99 (or prepared polenta $6.58 for two tubes)
1 cup, 8 oz raw cashews = $4.29
Beans, Grains & Rice
1/3 cup, 32 oz jasmine rice = $2.39
1 lb dry pinto beans = $1.29 (or cans $1.50)
Condiments & Sauces
2 cups, 32 oz frozen corn = $1.89
Meat & Poultry
6 lb split chicken breast (save bones for stock) $2.99/lb = $17.94
Oil & Vinegar
7/8 cup, 8 oz extra virgin olive oil = $4.99
1 Tbl, 16 oz apple cider vinegar = $1.79 (diy apple cider vinegar)
Pasta & Noodles
Soups and Broth
3/4 cup, 2 oz kombu seaweed = $1.99
1/4 cup, 5 oz soy sauce = $1.19 (sub for coconut aminos)
Total shopping cart: $114.31
If you don’t have that in cash you can remove the lime, lemon, mint, dill, parsley, cilantro, and get half as much chicken. This will take out a lot of flavor and cut your protein, but will save you $16.46, making your shopping cart total $97.88, before your pantry items, sales, coupons, or diy efforts. I always keep track in my head of what I might want to take out if I come up short. If I shop my pantry right now, without couponing or DIYing, my cart would cost me $73.32. I could reduce this even more by making the pastas with the stuff I already have on hand.
Keep in mind this total is for the whole shopping cart for everything but the spices, even the olive oil. This is not the price per unit, but the total cost if you have no food in the house.
You could go buy all of this and deliver it to someone in need, and know they had everything they needed for 7 days of dinners for 4 people, and leftover ingredients.
I did include oil but did not include any spices on my list/in my total. Hopefully you have some spices and can wing it.
Spices you can get at the dollar store:
dried chopped onions
red pepper flakes
salt & pepper
$8 if you have to buy them all; dollar store spices are not high quality, you need to use more to get enough flavor
Other spices in this menu:
As always, I sort my recipes by how perishable the ingredients are. I have found I can’t stick to a rigid day-by-day meal plan. I like to stay flexible, and don’t like to waste food.
Download this cute printable from Oh She Glows to keep track of what is the perishable-est
Tier 1/Most Perishable
(ie cukes, lettuce, snow peas, spinach, shrooms, tomatoes)
Laarb-inspired Summer Salad from Eat Recycle Repeat; 20 min serve room temp uses cabbage, cukes, peppers, squash
Fruit Sweetened Chinese Chicken Salad from And Love It Too; 20 min if chicken is precooked serve room temp uses cabbage, peas sub soy sauce
Easy Crock-pot Zucchini Lasagna from Thank Your Body; ?prep plus 4 hours? serve hot uses squash, add spinach vegetarian
Tier 2/Less Perishable
(ie beets, cabbage, corn, green beans, peppers, scallion, shrooms, yellow/summer squash)
Sweet Summer Corn Soup from Epicurious; ?1 hr? serve hot uses corn vegetarian
Creamy Vegetarian Enchilada Pasta from Budget Bytes; 30 min serve hot uses scallions vegetarian
Tier 3/Pantry or Make It Whenever
(ie carrot, celery, onion)
Curried Chicken and Rice Soup from Food Network; 1 hr 15 min serve hot uses lemon, mint
Vegetable Tamale Pies from A Couple Cooks; ?30 min w/canned beans and prepared polenta? serve hot vegetarian
Save this meal plan PDF to your desktop to refer to your recipes, then print it for the shopping list, then stick it on the fridge so your lovely family can keep on track.
Shopping List PDF Download
See the full June Meal Plan: June Real Food Meal Plan from More With Less Mom
I had to make many assumptions with food math to write this. How many tomatoes are in a pound? If a tree falls in the woods does it make a noise? I made the best choice I could and used several sites to help me, including asking Google lots of questions.
Convert measurements of produce at How Much Is In
Convert measurements of all kinds of foods at Traditional Oven
Convert measurents of ingredients at Good Cooking
Look up how long something will stay fresh at Eat by Date
These meals are for approximately four servings. You might have leftovers, or you might need to double the recipe, depending on your family. Sometimes I triple the recipe, my family of six eats double (hello starving teen boy) and I freeze the third. Then I can pull that from the freezer and add a salad another time without cooking.
I searched for what it would cost me to go get these groceries right this minute at the mid-range store in my area (Hannaford which has online prices, or Wegmans also has aisles which is helpful for your shopping list). I already have a lot of these ingredients in the house, and I shop at the “value” store (Market Basket). If I find coupons for what I am already buying online I save even more.
How do I get my shopping cart total lower?
Besides selecting foods to leave out, there are several things you can do:
- Shop your pantry. Why spend more money on food when you already have some? The best way to save money is to not spend it. Work with the food you already have in your garden, fridge, freezer, and pantry and you can minimize what you have to buy.
- Use sales and shop seasonally. The produce that is plentiful tends to be less expensive, so to eat seasonally just means to buy tomatoes when they’re in everybody’s garden everywhere, and often loss leaders in the sales flyers. Avoid recipes with tomatoes in December when they’re just not the same, and you don’t have to pay somebody to store that tomato from summer to December.
- Use coupons and be smart about it. I found that couponing from the paper was taking me more time than the money I saved was worth, since it was all for food I didn’t want to buy and cleaning products I didn’t need. However, you can do a quick search online, since your real food shopping list is short, and find a few coupons that will save you a few dollars with minimal time invested.
- It pays to DIY it. If you buy a processed food you are paying everyone who was involved in making that product, and they include their expenses in the markup. It is cheaper to invest your own time, learn a new skill, and know what is in your food. Whether it is worth it to diy for you will depend on your lifestyle. If you have very little time maybe it’s better for you to buy the packaged tortillas, but it won’t hurt you to try making them once and see how it goes, then you can make an informed decision.
Search My Grocery Deals for coupons and the best local deals
Check Money Saving Mom for your local flyers
If you are curious you can check the cost of living rating for your area at Sperling’s Best Places. My grocery costs are rated at 103.5, which is really close to the average for the US.
June Meal Plan Pinterest Boards:
In this post: Shopping Cart ~ Recipes ~ Printable List ~ Notes ~ Pinterest Boards
What do you think, did I miss any good tips?
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*Also see our
Frugal Flexible Monthly Meal Planning OR
Free Retro Mid-Century Weekly Meal Plan Printable Template
We hope you enjoyed our More With Less 7 Day Meal Plan for Summer/June post
Photo credits: Retro kitchen print from H is for Home on Flickr
Each recipe photo is the property of the original site as linked