I Feed My Family Of Five For $120 A Week — Here's What A Week Of Groceries & Meals Looks Like For Us
·20 min read
Hi! I'm Sydney, a stay-at-home mom of three, and I make homemade meals for my Colorado family every week.
With three kids under 8, meal prep and meal planning are essential in my house. Figuring out all the meals ahead of time allows me to save time and stick to a budget each week. For a long time, that budget was $100 per week — but I've recently had to increase it to $120.
That increase may come as no surprise to any fellow frequent grocery shopper out there. I think it's fair to say that between inflation, shrinkflation, and rising costs on food, gas, and just about everything else — many of us are feeling the crunch of stretched budgets.
Still, each weekend — with that budget in mind — I plan all my family's meals for the upcoming week. This includes choosing the recipes I will make plus the actual shopping. I cook pretty much every meal every day due to a severe peanut allergy in my household. We don't rely on much takeout for this reason.
When planning each week, I start by looking at my local grocery store's weekly sales so I know what items will get me the most bang for my buck. This first step has become more important than ever to my planning and budgeting lately.
With meal planning, up-front preparation is key — but it's also the most challenging thing. Here are a few tips and tricks that I use each week:
1) I pick recipes with ingredients that can be used for multiple meals (and in multiple ways). This also includes getting creative with leftovers. Sometimes, eating leftovers all the time can get old, but I try to remember that I can always use different components of my leftovers to create new meals.
2)I prioritize what's on sale. For example, this week I was able to find chicken and eggs on sale — and much of my produce was on sale.
3) Clip your digital coupons! You can find lots of additional savings by clipping digital coupons (found on store websites or apps). Some items may not be on sale, but could have great savings with a coupon. Conversely, some of the advertised sales state that you need the digital coupon to take advantage. This is easy to miss, especially if you're shopping in store. When you look at the fine print, you often see that even though the item is advertised as "on sale," if you don't have that digital coupon clipped, the price can be a lot more expensive!
4) I buy the cheapest store brand most of the time. Unless it's something that I'm unable to use due to the peanut allergy, an item I absolutely love (or if a different brand is on sale), store brand it is.
5) I ask my kids to help me! Feeding kids is a challenge. They change their minds constantly, and they seemingly get new taste buds every meal. When I ask them to help pick out recipes (usually with them looking at pictures), I find that they are more excited to eat them.
Also, I'm lucky that all my kids are small. All three are under 8, so I'm able to make our meals really stretch, portion-wise.
After planning my recipes this past Thursday, I spent $117.07 for a week's worth of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. I normally start my weeks on a Saturday or a Sunday, but this week, I started my meals on Friday. I did my shopping on Thursday because my husband was out of town. (I also had over-planned my previous week's menu, leaving a few stray recipes to be made from the week before.)
As mentioned previously, I find that as you continue to build your pantry, it's easier to spend within budget because you'll utilize staples you have already acquired. But for the purpose of this post, several pantry staples (like flour, oats, brown sugar, etc.) were included in the $117 I spent. The only staples I did not include were oil and spices.
Here was this week's grocery haul! I get my groceries delivered because it keeps me from impulse purchases, saves me a lot of time, and if anyone has ever brought three young kids to a grocery store, well...you know it's a losing game.
Before I get into the thick of things, I want to address a frequent comment I've seen on my previous posts. I do grocery delivery, and this cost is NOT included in my food budget. I choose to do delivery (as opposed to free pick-up) for two reasons:
One other thing to mention when it comes to portioning out meals in my home: My husband comes home for lunch every day, but he doesn't eat breakfast every day — which, BTW, I 100% disagree with because breakfast is the best.
Here's how the week went!
The requested breakfast to start off our week was an old favorite: oatmeal.
Following breakfast, my youngest two and I got "glam" and then headed out for our daily walk. I always start our day with outdoor time.
Once we headed back inside from our morning, I knew I needed a lunch that would come together quickly. I typically keep our meal times pretty consistent — but today, we were running behind. This quick recipe for Prosciutto Pasta with Peas and Parmesan was the perfect remedy.
The recipe only called for 8 ounces of pasta, so I got out my kitchen scale to measure out what I would need.
While the pasta and peas boiled, I cooked the prosciutto — then added everything together at the end.
I served lunch with a few strawberries!
After lunch? Pool time! Like most places, it has been HOT. We've been trying to use our neighborhood pool as often as possible.
Knowing that we would be spending our afternoon poolside, I wanted to make dinner ahead of time, during the kids' nap. Mediterranean Tuna Salad was a great option because it's served cold, meaning I could just take it out of the fridge to eat when we were ready!
It only took me a few minutes to chop and dice. Done and done!
Fast-forward to later in the evening — and this was called "the rainbow dinner" by my 3-year-old, which was very exciting for her.
My good intentions from Thursday night finally followed with good action on Saturday morning. I prepped (and ate) lots of Hash Brown Breakfast Cups.
This recipe also calls for the hash browns to be thawed, which I also don't do. (And it works fine!) To prep, I season the hash browns — still frozen — with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
I use an ice cream scoop to put the hash browns into greased muffin tins and then bake at 400F for 5 minutes.
Once the hash browns have cooked for 5 minutes, I use a spoon to create and shape the "cup." Then I add the egg.
After breakfast was another 100-degree day — and another day for the pool.
Post-pool, we were tired, hot, and hungry. We warmed up our leftover lunch from yesterday and called it good.
The funny thing about kids is that some days they never stop eating. Other days, you think they may actually be on a hunger strike. You never know what you're going to get.
There was a thunderstorm rolling in, and I knew that my kids were going to be asking for snacks not too far into the future. I knew this was a perfect time to make Banana Blueberry Muffins.
My 3-year-old loves baking, which is a nice bonding activity.
If you want to really challenge your patience, have your 3-year-old be in charge of sifting!
We got through this baking experience with only a few incidents — and then the muffins were ready for the oven.
The edges turned out a little darker than I would have preferred, but there's always a learning lesson.
The smell filled the house; the kids filled the kitchen!
We spent the afternoon watching the thunderstorm and celebrating our first ripe tomato from our garden.
After doing a lot of cooking and baking already today, I wanted dinner to be low effort. That's where this Greek Chicken Tray Bake came in handy.
The veggies were quickly chopped, chicken seasoned, and sauce made.
I find that the weekends are sometimes the hardest days to get motivated to cook. Thankfully, my husband is always eager to stir and sauce things when he's home to help.
And in what felt like no time at all, dinner was served.
The day ended with practicing all the various activities that can be done on wheels: biking, skateboarding, roller blading, and scootering.
Sunday morning, we dug into some of our prepped muffins and hash brown egg cups.
Then we were off to gymnastics!
We really wanted to try and hit the pool again before more thunderstorms rolled through, so we also had leftovers for lunch.
Unfortunately, we didn't beat the storm, and we weren't able to get to the pool. We decided to make Chewy Oatmeal Cookies instead.
The anticipation was high...
When I bake a recipe for the first time, I try and follow it exactly as written. However, baking at high altitude here in Colorado can sometimes be tricky. The next time I make this recipe, I would add a little bit of extra flour to help them not come out quite so flat.
And what turned out to be a theme of the day, we ate leftovers for dinner as well.
On Monday morning, I woke up feeling like I didn't even know what day it was. Then the panicked realization set in that I needed to take my son to basketball camp!
After basketball camp drop off, we were out for some exercise. Unlucky for us, we got a flat tire!
For lunch, I decided to just do a snack tray of sorts.
You would think we hadn't been to the pool in ages with the way the kids begged to go swimming before dinner.
The dressing came together in under a minute. I rinsed, dried, and chopped my greens. I let the kale soak in the dressing for a couple of hours before adding the other ingredients.
The salad I ended up making didn't turn out nearly as colorful as it should have, but sometimes, there's nothing to do but to improvise when you don't have all the exact ingredients!
And here's where the shocking part (for me) came in. First, my kids ate this SO WELL. I was admittedly a little nervous given the ingredients, but I definitely didn't let it show. Second, I left the blue cheese on the side, but once my kids saw it on my plate, they all wanted a taste. I gave them each a little piece and...they all liked it! 🤯
I'm sometimes asked how I'm able to get my kids to eat all these different types of foods. My answer is always this: They really don't know anything different. Ever since they were old enough to eat solids, I have never made my kids separate meals from the adults. When they were much younger, I did a baby-led weaning approach that consisted of giving them appropriately-sized pieces of the meals my husband and I were already having. (And this is not to say there is a right way or a wrong way of feeding your kids. This is just me sharing what has worked for my family!)
On Tuesday morning, we were running around like the McCallister family trying to get to the airport — except we were just trying to get to various kiddie camps. We ate very quick bowls of oatmeal. While my two older kids were at camp, I was able to spend some quality 1:1 time with my youngest.
Since it was just the two of us for lunch today, we kept it easy with the leftover kale salad and some fresh fruit.
Following lunch, we picked up my daughter from her morning camp, and both girls spent the rest of the afternoon like this...
There were a few steps of cooking the bacon, seasoning the chicken, gradually adding ingredients while the chicken cooked — and then it was ready for the oven.
Dinner was served! A great part about this recipe was that you made the entire dish in one skillet — and we all know: The less dishes, the better.
We only had a few hash brown egg cups left, and I wanted to get them eaten up while they were still good.
Our morning consisted of an extreme test of patience as my 2-year-old insisted on climbing into the hiking pack on her own for our walk — with the most illogical technique you've ever seen.
Lunch? Leftover peach chicken!
As we neared the end of the week, things started to get interesting. I pulled out a few ingredients left in the fridge to try and figure out some sort of plan for dinner.
My husband cooked up some grilled pineapple while I made a simple side salad with the leftover vegetables.
I'd say for going into dinner with zero plans, we ate just fine!
Although I couldn't keep up with the demand of the blue cheese, we were able to come out with leftovers for lunch tomorrow.
The perk of being able to throw something together quickly for dinner was that we could spend the rest of the evening before bed at (you guessed it!) the pool.
Thursday morning, everyone woke up feeling tired after some loud, scary thunderstorms. I thought the best remedy would be Banana Sour Cream Pancakes!
Lunch was leftovers from the night before. Afterwards, thunderstorms continued all day, so our activities were all indoors.
For dinner, I pulled out nearly everything I had leftover from the week and got to thinking of how I could put it all together. Thankfully, I still had that half box of pasta left.
For the leftover produce, I roasted everything on a sheet pan, seasoned with salt, pepper, oregano, and olive oil. I also cooked up the bacon on the stove and boiled the pasta, adding the frozen peas in the boiling water for the last few minutes.
I added a touch more salt and pepper to taste, fresh basil on the top, and dinner — on the fly — was served!
And that was my entire week! I felt good about the week, knowing I had utilized everything to the best of my ability. The hard reality is that with rising costs of, well...everything, I did need to increase my grocery budget by $20/week in order to meet my individual family's needs — but that's my reality right now, and I think I've adapted well.
Also, based on some past comments I've received, I just want to reiterate that this meal plan isn't meant to be one-size-fits-all. Your household may have larger appetites, bigger families, older kids, and/or a higher cost of living that would require a bigger budget all around. But the main takeaway I'd love to offer is simply how a bit of planning, budgeting, and organization can really help set you up for success in whatever budget you may require.
Still, I hope that this provides some inspiration for new recipes, new planning ideas, or how to work with whatever your budget may be. You can find more of my articles with weeks worth of plans here!
For more, follow me on Instagram at @sydneyinsuburbia. That's where I give step-by-step breakdowns on how I plan my weeks, shop, and cook — hopefully helping you to do it, too!
Tell me what you're making for your family this week in the comments below!
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