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 $81.21.
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 ~ 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.
In this post 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.
Shopping List (as pulled from the recipes)
*Please see the PDF for a shopping list with prices
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 all of the ingredients as written in the recipes. The PDF just includes the item to buy with prices.
Baking & Staples
1 tsp Italian herbs
salt and pepper, to taste
1 pinch sugar
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (if you can buy olive oil at your dollar store don’t do it, I would use butter over that processed olive oil-type product blech)
2 1/4 tsp coarse salt, plus more to taste
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
coconut oil, for greasing dish
1/4 cup crispy sunflower seeds (how to make crispy nuts)
1/4 cup crispy walnuts, crushed with fingers
1 Tbl olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp dried thyme
salt to taste
1 1/4 cup sliced olives
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup coconut milk (8 oz)
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2-3 oz feta cheese
handful pea pods, cut in half or 1/2 cup frozen peas
1 cup red and green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 small red onion, sliced into rings (save scraps for stock, but I don’t like skins in stock)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped (lasts 3 days, save stems for stock, freeze excess in oil or water in ice cube trays)
8 ripe medium beefsteak tomatoes
2 ripe peaches, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (2 cups)
3 Kirby cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (1 1/3 cups)
2 ears corn, kernels from (1 1/2 cups)
2 2/3 Tbl fresh lime juice
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, shredded, plus sprigs for garnish
12 oz small red potatoes, boiled, halved or quartered
2 cup fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears)
1 scallion/green onion, thinly sliced (1/4 cup) (save your roots to regrow)
1/2 jalapeno chile, stem, ribs, and seeds removed, minced (1 Tbl)
1 cup yellow or red cherry tomatoes (4 oz), halved
1 Tbl fresh marjoram (roughly chopped if large)
1 lemongrass stalk
2 tsp ginger, finely grated (store in the freezer)
3 Tbl green onions, green parts only, chopped
3 Tbl cilantro leaves, chopped (skip if you think cilantro is blech, you can sub parsley, lasts 3 days)
3 carrots, sliced (save scraps for stock, save tops to regrow greens for stock)
1 medium red onion, diced (save scraps for stock, but I don’t like skins in stock)
1 colored pepper, diced
1 onion, diced (save scraps for stock, but I don’t like skins in stock)
3 carrots, diced (save scraps for stock, save tops to regrow greens for stock)
4 stalks celery, diced (save scraps for stock)
1 lb rotini pasta
3-4 cups sprouted lentils, measured after sprouting
1 cup red lentils, uncooked
Deli & Prepared Foods
4 oz hard salami, cut into strips
29 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
Meat & Seafood
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast half (8 oz), cut into 3/4-inch cubes
4 chicken thighs
15 oz can chickpeas/garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
6 cup vegetable stock
Total shopping cart: $81.21
If you don’t have that in cash you can remove the walnuts, marjoram, and lemongrass. The walnuts are costing you $11.38 a pound, which will take a lot away from the recipe, but possibly you have a store with bulk bins where you can get your 1/4 cup instead of a whole bag. The marjoram is just for flavor. The lemongrass is pretty much the point of that recipe, but it’s awfully expensive for just flavor one time. This will save you $11.47, making your shopping cart total $69.74, before your pantry items, sales, coupons, or diy efforts. Also I had a really good price for chicken, you may not be able to match that. 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 $70.69.
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:
crushed red pepper flakes
ground black pepper
$5 if you have to buy them all; dollar store spices are not high quality, you need to use more to get enough flavor
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.
Tier 1/Most Perishable
*Do ahead vegetable stock with extra carrots and celery
Sprouted Lentil Salad from Kitchen Stewardship pepper, pea pods
Tier 2/Less Perishable
Lemongrass Chicken Zoodles from Food Renegade use veg peeler to make zoodles, zucchini, scallion
Oven Roasted Ratatouille from Budget Bytes tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini
Tier 3/Pantry or Make It Whenever
Hearty Tomato Lentil Soup from Running on Real Food carrot, onion
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
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 sound? 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 portion. 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.
August Meal Plan Pinterest Boards:
In this post: Shopping Cart ~ Recipes ~ Printable List ~ Pinterest Boards
Share with me: What do you do to stretch your grocery budget?
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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 August post
Photo credits: Vintage floral wallpaper background from Karen Arnold
Each recipe photo is the property of the original site as linked