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.

The author with her daughter.
Sydney Martin

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.

$120 in bills
Scottnodine / Getty Images/iStockphoto

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.

Various dinner recipes

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.

sales flyer
Sydney Martin

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.

The author's children.

Of course, you may need to alter your budget if you have teenagers, a larger family, bigger appetites, or live in areas with a higher cost of living.

Sydney Martin

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.)

Cost of weekly groceries

Notice the green "coupon" text on the blueberries? Not only were the berries on sale 2/$5, but there was also additional savings with the coupon. Win!

Sydney Martin

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.

groceries purchased for the week

(Produce: Bananas, blueberries, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, orange bell pepper, red onion, cherry tomatoes, garlic, basil, rosemary, lemon, peaches, english cucumber, parsley, dill, kale, endives, radicchio, figs, peas, pineapple, strawberries. Dairy: Sour cream, mozzarella, mascarpone, blue cheese, feta, Parmesan, milk, eggs. Meat or seafood: Chicken thighs, bacon, tuna, prosciutto. Pantry: Flour, baking powder, brown sugar, sugar, artichoke hearts, balsamic vinegar, kalamata olives, white cooking wine, honey, red wine vinegar, penne pasta, yeast. Misc: Frozen hash browns.)

Sydney Martin

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:

A comment about paying for delivery

1) I do not drive often: I can count on one hand the times I drive in a month, and it is not in the direction of the store.

2) Quality control: For my specific grocery store, pick-up is done by the grocery store employees, and there is very little communication that happens with the person shopping your list. When I choose delivery, my order is fulfilled through Instacart. I prefer this option because if anything needs a substitution or an item is out of stock, the shopper immediately texts me with pictures and possible replacements for that item.

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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!

Friday
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The requested breakfast to start off our week was an old favorite: oatmeal.

the author with a pot of oats

This worked well for me because I had the best intentions to do plenty of meal prep the night I got my groceries, after the kids went to bed. (But you know what they say about good intentions...)

Sydney Martin

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.

the author's daughter playing with toys

The older two kids rode their bikes, while the youngest one monitored my dog-walking capabilities.

Sydney Martin

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.

ingredients for meal

The ingredients were simple and the directions few.

Sydney Martin

The recipe only called for 8 ounces of pasta, so I got out my kitchen scale to measure out what I would need.

kitchen scale weighing out pasta

It can be tempting to just make the whole box, but I prefer to follow the exact measurements for a recipe, knowing that I'll be able to utilize leftover components later in the week!

Sydney Martin

While the pasta and peas boiled, I cooked the prosciutto — then added everything together at the end.

adding pasta to skillet
Sydney Martin

I served lunch with a few strawberries!

finished meal
sydney martin

After lunch? Pool time! Like most places, it has been HOT. We've been trying to use our neighborhood pool as often as possible.

the author and her daughter at the pool
Sydney Martin

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!

ingredients for recipe

This recipe intrigued me because it had a lot of fresh vegetables and herbs in it — but didn't actually use the entire amount on any of them. I knew this would mean I'd have lots of fresh produce leftover for later in the week.

Sydney Martin

It only took me a few minutes to chop and dice. Done and done!

chopped ingredients in a bowl
Sydney Martin

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.

finished meal
Sydney Martin
Saturday
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My good intentions from Thursday night finally followed with good action on Saturday morning. I prepped (and ate) lots of Hash Brown Breakfast Cups.

ingredients for meal

This recipe does call for cheese, but I omitted it.

Sydney Martin

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.

frozen hash browns with olive oil, salt, & pepper
Sydney Martin

I use an ice cream scoop to put the hash browns into greased muffin tins and then bake at 400F for 5 minutes.

hash browns in muffin tins

I consider this my "thaw."

Sydney Martin

Once the hash browns have cooked for 5 minutes, I use a spoon to create and shape the "cup." Then I add the egg.

finished meal

I put the muffin tins back in the oven (still at 400) for 13 minutes, and that's it! We keep these in the fridge for a few days — and they're consistently one of the most popular things in our house.

Sydney Martin

After breakfast was another 100-degree day — and another day for the pool.

author's daughters at the pool

When I think of summer as a kid, I think of something very similar to this. Carefree and magical.

Sydney Martin

Post-pool, we were tired, hot, and hungry. We warmed up our leftover lunch from yesterday and called it good.

leftovers with blueberries
Sydney Martin

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.

Author's child eating lunch

We had one happy eater and two others that ate the berries and then went MIA. This worked fine because in true mom fashion, I ate their leftovers.

Sydney Martin

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.

ingredients for recipe
Sydney Martin

My 3-year-old loves baking, which is a nice bonding activity.

author's daughter baking

However, don't let this fool you into thinking it's always fun like social media likes to portray. (It usually ends up with me telling her to get her hand out of the bowl an endless amount of times.)

Sydney Martin

If you want to really challenge your patience, have your 3-year-old be in charge of sifting!

author and her daughter

Although we had some additional messes, the most important thing that was had was fun! Also not pictured was my husband vigorously cleaning and wiping up behind us.

Sydney Martin

We got through this baking experience with only a few incidents — and then the muffins were ready for the oven.

muffin tins with batter
Sydney Martin

The edges turned out a little darker than I would have preferred, but there's always a learning lesson.

baked muffins
Sydney Martin

The smell filled the house; the kids filled the kitchen!

author's son with a muffin
Sydney Martin

We spent the afternoon watching the thunderstorm and celebrating our first ripe tomato from our garden.

author's daughter in the garden
Sydney Martin

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.

ingredients for meal

The recipe calls for chicken breast or thighs, but my store was out of the thighs I had put on my list. I ended up with massive chicken quarters instead!

Sydney Martin

The veggies were quickly chopped, chicken seasoned, and sauce made.

fresh vegetables on a sheet pan

The recipe for the tuna salad only called for the zest, so I used the leftover zested lemon for this one instead.

Sydney Martin

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.

the author and her husband

We put on our favorite cooking playlist and do it all together, which helps with the motivation!

Sydney Martin

And in what felt like no time at all, dinner was served.

completed meal

And it was a hit!

Sydney Martin

The day ended with practicing all the various activities that can be done on wheels: biking, skateboarding, roller blading, and scootering.

the author's daughter
Sydney Martin
Sunday
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Sunday morning, we dug into some of our prepped muffins and hash brown egg cups.

leftover hash brown egg cups and muffins
Sydney Martin

Then we were off to gymnastics!

the author's daughter at gymnastics
Sydney Martin

We really wanted to try and hit the pool again before more thunderstorms rolled through, so we also had leftovers for lunch.

leftovers with fresh strawberries

I didn't want to keep the leftover tuna for too long, and my strawberries were starting to look questionable, so we decided to finish these off!

Sydney Martin

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.

ingredients for cookies
Sydney Martin

The anticipation was high...

author's daughter watching cookies bake
Sydney Martin

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.

baked cookies on a cooling rack

Nevertheless, the flavor was delicious, and there were absolutely no complaints.

Sydney Martin

And what turned out to be a theme of the day, we ate leftovers for dinner as well.

author's daughter eating dinner

Before anyone starts questioning, the flower was not a part of dinner. It was a very vital dinner guest though, according to my 3-year-old.

Sydney Martin
Monday
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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!

author with a muffin

After quickly looking at the clock and realizing we had plenty of time before we needed to leave, we had our hash brown cups and muffins again.

Sydney Martin

After basketball camp drop off, we were out for some exercise. Unlucky for us, we got a flat tire!

author's daughters pushing a bike

Once we were back home, we continued to play outside until lunch time.

Sydney Martin

For lunch, I decided to just do a snack tray of sorts.

snacking plate with fruit, vegetables, and cheese

I set a big plate in the middle of the table, and the kids had fun picking out the items they wanted to put on their own plates! My son had lunch at camp, and my husband had a few hash brown cups.

Sydney Martin

You would think we hadn't been to the pool in ages with the way the kids begged to go swimming before dinner.

author's daughter at the pool

Typically, the time right before dinner is when I'm cooking. However, in the summer, I try and prepare a lot during afternoon nap. Due to this, I was able to say, "Yes!"

Sydney Martin

And here is where we got to the recipe that surprised me most ALL week. Enter: Kale Salad with Prosciutto and Figs.

ingredients for recipe

If you look at this picture and then the list of ingredients in the recipe, you'll notice some differences. The first one is that I left out the walnuts (due to the nut allergy). Then, my store was out of radicchio and endives. My shopper subbed some leafy greens instead to go with the kale.

Sydney Martin

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.

food scale measuring out ingredients

Once we returned from the pool, I quickly added the figs and prosciutto.

Sydney Martin

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!

finished meal
Sydney Martin

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! 🤯

author's daughter eating salad

So after adding a bit to each of their bowls, I just sat thinking how wild it was that the one recipe I was the most weary about for the little ones ended up being one of their favorites so far. Kids, amirite??

Another quick note: Lettuce can be pretty tricky yet for my newly 2-year-old, so I made sure I cut her servings extra small.

Sydney Martin

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!)

Tuesday
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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.

author's daughter with a microphone

Quality time = listening to very loud "karaoke."

Sydney Martin

Since it was just the two of us for lunch today, we kept it easy with the leftover kale salad and some fresh fruit.

leftover kale salad with a peach
Sydney Martin

Following lunch, we picked up my daughter from her morning camp, and both girls spent the rest of the afternoon like this...

author's daughter sleeping
Sydney Martin

I felt like I had split up the week nicely with a few leftover dinners, but now it was time for something freshly cooked! I got all the ingredients out to make Rosemary Peach Chicken in a White Wine Sauce.

ingredients for recipe
Sydney Martin

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.

seasoned chicken

The actual cooking time in the oven was very short. Five minutes to roast and only a couple more on broil to finish off the dish.

Sydney Martin

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.

finished meal

The salt of the bacon and chicken blended so nicely with the sweetness of the peaches and honey. The perfect salty/sweet combo.

Sydney Martin
Wednesday
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We only had a few hash brown egg cups left, and I wanted to get them eaten up while they were still good.

hash brown egg cups on a plate with some muffins

Breakfast was egg cups and muffins.

Sydney Martin

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.

author's daughter climbing into hiking pack

Playing in the water table helped cool us both off physically and emotionally.

Sydney Martin

Lunch? Leftover peach chicken!

leftover chicken
Sydney Martin

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.

chicken marinading in a bowl

The chicken quarters in the packs were very big — so throughout the week, I took the six quarters and split them up for three meals. However, by today I was less than enthused about eating yet another leg quarter. I decided to de-bone and de-skin the chicken to change it up just enough.

Sydney Martin

My husband cooked up some grilled pineapple while I made a simple side salad with the leftover vegetables.

author's husband holding a plate of grilled pineapple

I seasoned the salad with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. I had red onion on the side, along with blue cheese.

Sydney Martin

I'd say for going into dinner with zero plans, we ate just fine!

dinner plate

I seasoned the chicken with olive oil, lemon, salt, pepper, and oregano. Then I put the chicken in the air fryer for about 15 minutes.

Sydney Martin

Although I couldn't keep up with the demand of the blue cheese, we were able to come out with leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

author's daughter adding cheese to plate
Sydney Martin

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.

the author and her daughter
Sydney Martin
Thursday
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Thursday morning, everyone woke up feeling tired after some loud, scary thunderstorms. I thought the best remedy would be Banana Sour Cream Pancakes!

pancake batter in a bowl

With this recipe, I was able to finish up the bananas and the leftover tub of sour cream.

Sydney Martin

Lunch was leftovers from the night before. Afterwards, thunderstorms continued all day, so our activities were all indoors.

author's daughter playing with slime

My daughter was very proud of her purple slime she made at preschool camp.

Sydney Martin

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.

leftover ingredients for dinner

I also remembered I had half a bag of frozen peas and quite a few cloves of garlic.

Sydney Martin

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.

fresh produce on a sheet pan

I saved some of the pasta water and used it to help create a nice creamy sauce with Parmesan and mascarpone cheeses.

Sydney Martin

I added a touch more salt and pepper to taste, fresh basil on the top, and dinner — on the fly — was served!

finished meal on a plate

We had zero leftovers of this meal and hardly any leftovers (or leftover ingredients) from the entire week, which means less waste and a spacious fridge all ready for the following week. Win-win.

Sydney Martin

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!

The author's articles
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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!

Sydney and her family

And one last takeaway: Never let anyone make you feel bad for making a budget! People create budgets for all different reasons — necessity, savings, retirement, investments, and it's something you can feel proud of. You got this!

Mary Elizabeth Photography

Tell me what you're making for your family this week in the comments below!