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 $113.97.
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 July monthly meal plan to show you how I manage to squeeze the last tasty bits from my grocery budget.
If you are trying to make a shopping list you can use sites like Pepperplate or Food.com (under Recipe Box) to pull ingredients from your recipes.
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
24 oz sourdough bread (diy a sourdough starter) $2.99, need 1 round loaf
20 oz whole wheat bread (diy soaked) $2.79, need 8 slices
2 baguettes (diy) $2.58
11 oz 4 pk pita bread (diy soaked) $2.69, need 4
Baking & Staples:
17 oz extra-virgin olive oil $5.29, need 1/2 cup
2 (5 oz) cans tuna in oil $2.38
6 oz chopped salted roasted almonds $3.49, need 1/4 cup
24 oz bulgur (bulgar) wheat $2.29, need 1 cup
32 oz red wine vinegar (sub for sherry vinegar, can use rice vinegar or any wine vinegar) $1.99, need 2 Tbl
12 oz dijon mustard $0.99, need 2 1/4 tsp
17 oz balsamic vinegar $3.19
12 oz honey $4.29, need 1/4 tsp
15 oz mayonnaise (diy) $2.99, need 3/4 cup
4 oz feta cheese $1.59, need 1/2 cup crumbled
15 oz ricotta cheese $1.89 (diy ricotta in 5 min)
4 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese $6.49, need 2 oz
8 oz goat cheese $7.99, need 1 1/2 cup crumbled
3 5 oz pkg arugula $8.37
2 oz fresh basil $2.99, need 1/4 cup chopped
5 lb carrot $2.69 (save scraps for stock, save tops to regrow greens for stock), need 1 large, 1 medium chopped
1 head celery $1.69 (save extra bits for stock, save bottom to regrow), need 1 stalk
1 bunch fresh cilantro (blech or sub parsley, lasts 3 days) $0.99, 1/4 cup chopped
2 cucumbers $1.18, need 1 sliced, 1/2 cup diced
1.3 oz fresh dill $1.99, need 1/4 cup chopped
1 head garlic $0.69, 1 clove minced, 1 clove chopped
15 oz lemon juice $1.79 (or 5 lemons)
1 lemon $0.99 (for rind)
1 head romaine lettuce $1.79
1 lb red onions $0.79 (save scraps for stock but not skins), need 2, plus 1 cup sliced
1 red bell pepper $0.90 (save scraps for stock)
1 yellow pepper $0.90 (save scraps for stock)
1 bunch scallions/green onions $0.69 (save your roots to regrow)
2 shallots $1.60 (save scraps for stock but not skins), need 2
4 oz grape tomatoes (to halve put them between two tupperware lids and then slide your serrated knife between the lids) $0.99, need 1 cup halved
4 tomatoes $3.98
3 yellow/summer squash $2.54 (save scraps for stock)
5 zucchini $4.23 (save scraps for stock)
16 oz orzo $0.89, need 3/4 cup
Meat & Seafood:
1 pkg split chicken breast (approx 2 lb, sub for skinless, boneless chicken breast) $5.58, need 1 cup shredded
1 15.5 oz can cannellini beans $0.69
7 16 oz can chickpeas/garbanzo beans $8.33
1 15.5 oz can kidney beans $0.79
Total shopping cart: $113.97
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 $87.68. I could reduce this even more by making the breads 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:
$3 if you have to buy them all; dollar store spices are not high quality, you need to use more to get enough flavor
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
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, squash, zucchini)
Confetti Chickpea Salad from Budget Bytes carrot, scallion, yellow squash, zucchini 10 min serve room temp
Gazpacho Sandwich from Giada tomato, basil, shallot, cucumber, bell pepper, arugula 25 min no cook
Lemony Orzo-Veggie Salad with Chicken from Cooking Light pre-cooked chicken, cucumber, bell pepper, scallion 20 min precooked chicken stovetop
Zucchini and Bean Salad With Bulgur from Real Simple zucchini, shallot 20 min no cook serve room temp
Tier 2/Less Perishable
(ie beets, cabbage, corn, green beans, peppers, scallion, shrooms, yellow/summer squash)
Arugula, Italian Tuna, and White Bean Salad from Cooking Light 30 min grape tomatoes, red onion, arugula no cook serve room temp
Chickpea Salad Sammiches from Post Punk Kitchen carrot, celery, tomato, lettuce 10 min no cook
Pan-grilled Veggie Sandwiches with Ricotta, Arugula and Balsamic from Dave Lieberman zucchini, arugula 40 min
Tier 3/Pantry or Make It Whenever
(ie lettuce, tomatoes)
None this week, too many beautiful things at the farmers market!
See the full July Meal Plan: July 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 or StillTasty
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
Some of my favorites for DIYing processed foods are Simple Bites and Good Life Eats
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.
July Meal Plan Pinterest Boards:
Meal Plan July (just look at all that tastiness!)
Recipes to Try Summer
In this post: Shopping Cart ~ Recipes ~ Printable List ~ Notes ~ Pinterest Boards
Share with me: What do you do to stretch your grocery budget?
Get the 7 day meal plan with shopping list, as well as the monthly meal plan with printable calendar, in your email when you subscribe.
Shared with Busy Monday, Farmgirl Friday, Fat Tuesday, Foodie Friday, Healthy Happy Green & Natural, Hearth and Soul Hop, Menu Plan Monday, Motivation Monday, Thank Goodness It’s Monday, Waste Not Want Not Wednesday, Treasure Box Tuesday
*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 July post
Photo credits: 60s wallpaper from Wikipedia
Each recipe photo is the property of the original site as linked
Loving the way you organized this yummy meal plan! I always forget to do the more perishable items first. So smart 🙂
Thanks! It is a struggle to remember what needs to go first, but I find if I do the meal plan my memory is better.
I agree that wasted food is wasted money that I don’t have and those coupons really do pay off. I usually get two papers so I’ll have two sets of coupons. I don’t know if you have a Publix shopping center where you live, but they take two coupons for one product!
It seems like in my area they tightened up the coupon policies so it is harder. You can still save money, but it takes more work.
This is such a helpful post (and series!). Love the variety of recipes and your helpful, frugal tips too! Pinned and sharing. Thank you for bringing this post to the Hearth and Soul hop.
Thanks April, I like writing these.
Who can resist these healthy and delectable meal plans. They make life so much easier! Thank you so much for sharing your 7 Day Meal Plan #3 – Seasonal dinners for July/summer with us at the Healthy Happy Green and Natural Party Blog Hop. I’m pinning and sharing.
Oooh you used a fancy word. 😉 I’m glad you like it, thanks!
Wow! How very detailed of you! Thanks so much for sharing this on Waste Not Want Not Wednesday. Sadly, being gluten free makes some things (like ready-made breads & pasta) more expensive, but you’ve got some great suggestions 🙂
Yes, gluten-free adds a whole new level to budget challenges. I think often I would use veggie substitutes over the pricey gluten-free flours and products.