Feed your family of four a week of dinners with a shopping cart maximum of $95.
Eat more – spend less!
This is not your average meal plan. Learn how to cook like your great-grandma did, with little waste and stretching what you have. The point of this meal plan is to help you be smart with your money. 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 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 May monthly meal plan to show you how I manage to squeeze the last bit from my grocery budget.
If you are trying to make a shopping list you use sites like Pepperplate or Food.com 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.
Download the seasonal fruits and vegetables guide image from The Vintage Mixer to your phone and have a handy reference with you
I kept the produce price per pound here so you see how your prices compare.
1 1/2 cups corn (save cob for stock) = frozen 16 oz $0.99, two ears fresh $0.40
1 lb 6 oz baby spinach (regular torn to baby spinach size, opened lasts 3-5 days in fridge) fresh bunch spinach $1.69 averages one lb, two bunches = $3.38
6 scallion/green onions (save your roots to regrow) 1 bunch = $0.69
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped (skip if you think cilantro is blech, you can sub parsley, lasts 3 days) 1 bunch = $0.99
4 leeks (save scraps for stock) 2 in a bunch $1.99 = $3.98
17 cloves whole garlic = 2 heads = $1.38
4 broccoli heads (1 crown = 1/2 lb, lasts 7-14 days) = $1.69/lb fresh broccoli x 2 = $3.98
2 onions (save scraps for stock but I don’t like skins in stock) yellow onion $1.39/lb 4 per lb x 2 = $0.35 OR 2 lb bag 8 onions $1.69
1 medium shallot, minced (save scraps for stock) 1 shallot = $0.35 OR 1 yellow onion + 1 garlic clove
4 Tbl fresh parsley = 4 tsp dry (lasts 3 days, save stems for stock, freeze excess in oil or water in ice cube trays) 1 bunch = $1.19
1 lb small red potatoes = $0.69/lb 10ish per lb
3 carrots (save scraps for stock, save tops to regrow greens for stock) $0.79/lb 7 ish per lb = $0.34 OR 3 lb bagged carrots $1.99
*2 tsp grated lemon peel (no lemon juice sub because this goes with bread crumbs in dry) = $0.60 fresh lemon
4 cups all purpose flour 1 lb = 3 1/3 c, 2 lb bag = $1.19
Beans, Grains & Rice
15 oz. can black beans = $0.75
4 lb uncooked beans (used to par-bake pie crust, can be used for something else later, you can also use uncooked rice but it’s harder to save after) 1 lb bag dried black beans $1.39 x 4 = $5.56
Bread & Bakery
8 large flour tortillas 12 ct (diy it in 10 min, you already bought the flour and oil) = $1.89
*2 tbsp seasoned breadcrumbs (or diy with wheat bread 16 oz $1.99 and you’ll have that to eat too ) breadcrumbs 15 oz $1.59
1/4 cup tomato paste = 2 oz $0.49 (freeze any excess in ice cube tray)
2 oz ready-to-eat sun dried tomatoes, not in oil (you can diy it but it’s not cheaper) 8.5 oz = $3.79
Condiments & Sauces
*26 oz (3 cups) marinara sauce 24 oz = $1.59 (or diy it in 1 hrish with 28 oz whole peeled tomates $0.95, and freeze any extra)
I would buy the ricotta, a square of mozarella, the parmesan, and a pound of cheddar
16 oz ricotta cheese 15 oz = $1.89
1 cup mozzarella, shredded (12 oz moz left) 4 oz 16 oz $3.99
11 Tbl parmesan, grated 6 oz 8 oz grated $2.49
4 oz shredded sharp cheddar (4 oz cheddar left) 8 oz $1.99
3 cups shredded three cheese blend 12 oz (for enchiladas sub pepper jack, cheddar etc.) 16 oz $3.49
8 oz havarti cheese, shredded (for spinach bacon quiche sub cheddar $1.99, mozzarella 16 oz $3.99, pepper jack $1.99) 6 oz = $4.29
10 oz cream cheese 8 oz $1.29 = $2.58
14 eggs 1 dozen large brown $2.09 = $4.18
2 cups plain Greek yogurt 21 oz 32 oz = $3.99
2 cup whole milk 1 gallon $2.79
11 1/2 oz unsalted butter 16 oz $2.69
Meat & Poultry
1 lb bacon = $3.99
12 oz cooked shredded chicken breast sub blsl chicken thigh $3.49/lb
16 oz (6) skinless chicken breast cutlets, sliced thin sub blsl chicken thigh $3.49/lb
1 to 1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs $3.49/lb 3 lb = $10.47
Oil & Vinegar
5 Tbl olive oil 17 oz $5.69 (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)
Pasta & Noodles
24 jumbo pasta shells 12 oz $1.59 = $3.18
6 oz egg noodles 12 oz $1.19
Soups and Broth
7 cups broth (next time you will have scraps to diy it for free) 56 oz 32 oz $1.69 x 2 = $3.38 + 1 if you don’t buy wine
Wine & Spirits
*1/4 cup white wine 12.7 oz = $2.99
Total shopping cart: $94.45
If you don’t have that in cash you can remove the lemon, sun-dried tomatoes, bacon and wine. This will take out a lot of flavor but will save you $11.37, making your shopping cart total $83.08, 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 $55.57.
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 have been frustrated by meal plans that look like they save a lot of money, but then are calculated by price per unit in an area with cheaper groceries than mine, or assume I have things on hand that I totally can’t afford.
Luckily I tried a couple other blog’s weekly meal plans so that number doesn’t freak me out. It’s right in line with the other real food meal plans I gave a go, considering how much food has gone up recently.
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:
parsley (if you don’t buy fresh)
$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, so the ones with spinach and parsley will be made first.
Download this cute printable from Oh She Glows to keep track of what is the perishable-est
*DIY broth/stock first if you have scraps or some extra veg, can be done early same day
*DIY sun-dried tomatoes if you are going to, must be made day before or earlier
*DIY tortillas before
Black Bean Spinach Enchiladas from The Garden Grazer uses cilantro, spinach, broth, three cheese blend sub cheddar (vegetarian)
Chicken with Leeks, Sun-Dried Tomatoes in White Wine Sauce from Skinnytaste uses parsley, broth, chicken cutlets sub blsl chicken thigh, white wine
Chicken Stew Recipe from Taste of Home uses parsley, broth, blsl chicken thighs
Deep-Dish Spinach, Leek and Bacon Quiche from foodiecrush uses spinach, cream cheese, havarti sub cheddar (can skip bacon to make vegetarian)
Broccoli Spinach Frittata with Caramelized Onions from Savory Lotus uses spinach (vegetarian)
*DIY marinara, can be made one hourish earlier or before and kept in fridge
*DIY bread crumbs, can be made same day
Chicken and Broccoli Noodle Casserole from Skinnytaste uses broth, cheddar, parmesan shredded chicken breast sub blsl chicken thigh
Roasted Broccoli Stuffed Shells Recipe from Vintage Mixer uses ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan (vegetarian)
Save this meal plan PDF to your desktop to refer to your recipes, then print the shopping list.
Shopping List PDF Download
See the full May Meal Plan: May 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 online grocery pricing). 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 ” target=”_blank”>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 ” target=”_blank”>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.
May Meal Plan Pinterest Boards:
Meal Plan May (just look at all that tastiness!)
Recipes to Try Spring
In this post: Shopping Cart ~ Recipes ~ Printable List ~ Notes ~ Pinterest Boards
What do you think, did I miss any good tips?
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.
*Also see our
May Real Food 7 Day Meal Plan OR
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 Spring/May post
Photo credits: Mustard tins photo from aglet on Flickr
Retro kitchen print from H is for Home on Flickr
Each recipe photo is the property of the original site as linked
Shared with Busy Monday, Fat Tuesday, Frugal Family, Healthy Happy Green and Natural, Hearth and Soul Hop, Inspire Me Monday, Mostly Homemade Mondays, Simply Natural Saturdays, Thank Goodness It’s Monday, Thrifty Thursday