I Feed My Family Of Five For $120 A Week — Here's What A Week Of Groceries And Meals Looks Like For Us

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 kids

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.

Sydney Martin

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 recipes
Tasty

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.

A grocery store 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 get BOGO free beef, shrimp, AND bagels! Not to mention other sales like ground beef, pineapple, cheese, and eggs.

picture of a store 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! This week, I was able to find a digital coupon for $10 off my entire order (!!) and a free bag of chips.

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, or 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. I will also let them pick what they want for their lunch/snack fruit and veggies for the week!

Sydney Martin

Also, my kids are small! They do not have the same appetites as teenagers or fully grown adults. I'm aware that my grocery budget will need to increase as they get older.

the author's children.

No matter what your budget, dietary needs, or family size, the main takeaway I'd love to offer is simply how a bit of planning and organization can really help set you up for success when it comes to getting food on the table.

Sydney Martin

Also, I'm not a chef. I'm a parent who cooks meals for her family. I learn things as I go and pick recipes that seem manageable for me to keep up with — as I also try and be present with my family.

After planning my recipes this past Sunday, I spent $119.13 for a week's worth of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks.

breakdown of cost for weekly groceries

One thing to note is that I had an additional digital coupon (as mentioned earlier) for $10 off my total transaction. This made my total $119.13.

Sydney Martin

Following checkout, I noticed I was able to save $81.39 due to coupons and store sales. The BOGO meats were a majority of those savings, but my jaw still dropped a bit when I saw how much money I was able to shave off!

$81.30 savings on weekly groceries

Although the savings were impeccable, things were not exactly smooth sailing. 👀

Sydney Martin

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, sugar, honey, etc.) were included in the $119 I spent. The only staples I did not include were oils 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.

week's worth of groceries on the counter

(Produce: cranberries, oranges, poultry herbs, onion, green pepper, yellow pepper, tomato, cherry tomatoes, garlic, zucchini, yellow squash, red onion, cherry tomatoes, avocado. Dairy: milk, mozzarella cheese. Meat: ground beef, tri-tip, shrimp, frozen meatballs. Pantry: chicken broth, beef broth, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, tomato paste, rice, flour, pumpkin puree, spaghetti, canned crushed tomatoes, olives, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire, soy sauce, honey, tortillas, sugar, cake mix, bagels, bread. Misc: orange juice, eggs, sour cream, chips.)

Sydney Martin

Before I get into the thick of things, I want to address that I do grocery delivery, and this cost is NOT included in my food budget. I choose to do delivery (as opposed to free pickup) for two reasons:

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, pickup 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.

One last thing: My husband typically comes home for lunch every day, but he doesn't eat breakfast every day. (Listen, everyone has their faults.) As for me, I've never met a breakfast I didn't like.

Here's how the week went!

Monday
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Monday was Halloween, and I wanted to do something special for breakfast. I saw this super simple recipe for Two-Ingredient Pumpkin Donuts and thought that sounded simple enough for an early morning before school!

cake mix and a can of pumpkin puree

There were, in fact, two ingredients. Cake mix + pumpkin puree. The recipe specifically states that you do not add the additional ingredients required for the cake mix (like oil, egg, etc).

Sydney Martin

I'm not sure what I expected out of this, but I can tell you a whisk was entirely not necessary. A spoon or spatula would have worked well and probably would have had less cake mix powder flung to the floor.

cake mix and pumpkin puree combined in a bowl

The consistency ended up being very thick! I made one batch before school since we were on limited time. The recipe instructs you to put the batter into a piping bag, but I was not about to do that song and dance on top of everything else. I tried using my cookie dough scoop, but it was still a bit of a hassle. However, in the grand scheme, this was very simple!

Sydney Martin

Preparing these took less time than it took to preheat my oven to 400°F. Fortunately, I recently acquired a silicone donut pan, but you could easily do this exact thing with a muffin tin (sans donut shape result). The donuts baked for 9 minutes. I decided to add a bit of pumpkin pie spice for a little oomph.

Due to me not wanting to use the piping bag, the donuts came out with a ~rustic~ appearance.

I did go back later and finish baking the rest of the batter. I tried the piping bag, and well, the piping tip I chose was too small, and I was probably better off committing to the back-country aesthetic. Nevertheless, the flavor was a hit!

I did go back later and finish baking the rest of the batter. I tried the piping bag, and well, the piping tip I chose was too small, and I was probably better off committing to the back-country aesthetic. Nevertheless, the flavor was a hit!

Sydney Martin

After the first round of sendoffs, the girls and I scrambled to get ready for the Halloween parade at my son's school.

the author's daughter dressed in a lion costume

My daughter was also able to wear a costume to her school, so we were in full Halloween mode before 8 a.m.! Later in the morning, my youngest and I were able to participate in the preschool Halloween party.

Sydney Martin

Earlier in the morning, while the donuts were baking, I packed my son's lunch for school: a quesadilla, apples, cucumbers, and chips.

The author's son's lunchbox
Sydney Martin

Once the girls and I got home for lunch after the preschool party, I made up the same lunch for them.

a pumpkin cookie cutter cutting out a quesadilla

I used a pumpkin cookie cutter to cut out a festive quesadilla. My husband had an appointment over lunch, so in true mom fashion, I ate the scraps. I really felt like I had so much to get done before my son's school got let out that I didn't have time to sit and eat a full lunch. I was definitely feeling that decision mid-afternoon.

Sydney Martin

We spent the rest of the afternoon doing a few Halloween crafts.

the author's daughter doing a craft
Sydney Martin

Every Halloween, I try and make something fun for dinner. I always want my kids to eat a hearty meal before trick or treating, but I know I need to make it something festive to make them interested in real food before the candy rolls out. I thought spaghetti would be a great choice — it's filling, a fan favorite, and easy to put together.

ingredients for pasta sauce

Normally, I try and fit my favorite brand-name items into my budget each week, but this time, I just couldn't get Rao's marinara sauce to work. Instead of buying a cheaper brand sauce that I always find tends to be a bit too sweet, I decided to make my own sauce using a can of crushed tomatoes. I followed this Easy Pasta Sauce recipe as a guide.

Sydney Martin

I also boiled some frozen meatballs.

meatballs cooking in a pot
Sydney Martin

Now, for the spooky flair, I wanted to dye the noodles a fun color. I added just a couple of drops of coloring into the boiling water prior to adding the noodles — and it worked like a charm!

a pot of green, boiling water

I had never dyed noodles before, so I was really just flying by the seat of my pants.

Sydney Martin

To finish off the meatball "eyeballs," I sliced a few pieces of mozzarella cheese and used a piping tip to cut out small circles for eyeballs. My youngest one was also feeling snack-ish, so she got all the scraps.

the author's daughter with a piece of cheese
Sydney Martin

The kids loved how it turned out, and most importantly, they ate well!

  Sydney Martin
Sydney Martin

While we waited for my husband to get home from work, the kids and I played a high stakes game of "pin the smile on the pumpkin."

The author's kid playing a game
Sydney Martin

And in no time, we were off. Happy Halloween!

the author's daughters heading to trick or treat
Sydney Martin
Tuesday
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On Tuesday morning, everyone was exhausted. I kept things simple with scrambled eggs and more pumpkin donuts.

eggs in a pan and pumpkin donuts
Sydney Martin

Lunch time was leftovers from the previous night.

leftover spaghetti ingredients

We didn't have any eyeballs — err, meatballs — left, so we went ahead with a meatless option.

Sydney Martin

When I packed the kids' lunchboxes, I allowed them to pick out one or two special things from their trick or treat buckets as well!

school lunch box
Sydney Martin

In the afternoon, we continued on with some crafts we hadn't gotten around to yet.

the author's daughter doing a craft

By we, I mean my older daughter and I. I found my youngest trying to raid her entire candy bucket.

Sydney Martin

For dinner, I really wanted to incorporate a meal with lots of vegetables. I was able to get tri-tip as a BOGO free deal, so I chose Grilled Tri-Tip and Vegetables with Chimichurri Sauce.

ingredients for dinner

The piece of meat I had ended up being double the amount I needed for the recipe. However, I didn't have double the amount of vegetables. So, instead of doubling the entire thing, I just made extra marinade for the meat.

Sydney Martin

In true "Sydney" fashion, as I was squeezing the air out of the Ziploc, my watch ripped a hole in the bag. We were off to a wonderful start.

meat marinading in a Ziploc

I also didn't pay enough attention to the amount of fresh parsley that was required. I ended up having to add additional dried parsley — but thankfully, the flavor still came through!

Sydney Martin

After the meat marinated (the recipe says at least 4 hours. I did not have my act together enough for that, so I did closer to 2.5), I seared the sides and then placed it on my sheet pan.

meat searing in a pan

During searing, I used my Frywall to help prevent oil splatters. Although this recipe instructs you to grill everything, I just didn't have it in me to do it that way.

Let me set the scene: I open the door to heat the grill, the kids follow me out, so do the dogs. The dogs start barking at every person, animal, and cool breeze that comes their way. I wrangle everyone back inside, I lose track of everything, and well, you get the idea.

Sydney Martin

I ended up roasting the meat and vegetables on two different sheet pans, following directions from this Tri-Tip in the Oven recipe.

tri tip dinner on a plate

I just put the vegetables in the oven during the last 15-20 minutes of cooking. Everyone was so impressed with this recipe. Great flavor and fairly easy preparation!

Sydney Martin
Wednesday
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For breakfast on Wednesday, we finished off the rest of the pumpkin donuts. My son was already asking if he could have leftover steak for his lunch, so I started packing everything up.

a packed school lunch box

Both my kids have lunchboxes that contain thermal containers. This allows me to have more flexibility with their lunches instead of constantly thinking of cold food options!

Sydney Martin

Lunch for the adults was just leftovers, but for the girls, I decided to change it up just a bit. I served them steak quesadillas.

steak quesadilla
Sydney Martin

I was going to be gone at an appointment for the rest of the afternoon and wasn't expecting to get home until after dinner. I wanted to prepare something in advance so my husband just had to reheat and serve later on. In these circumstances, I always feel like soup is a great option. I pulled everything out that I needed to make Stuffed Pepper Soup.

ingredients for dinner
Sydney Martin

The bulk of the steps in this recipe consisted of dicing the vegetables and adding various canned items and spices. Simple enough!

chopped vegetables

I made the last-minute decision to have my husband add the rice in once it was closer to dinner time. This way, it wouldn't get overcooked.

Sydney Martin

I was thankful that this recipe allowed me to work in a homemade dinner even though I wouldn't be home around dinnertime to cook it.

bowls of soup

However, if I had to be super picky, I think this Stuffed Pepper Soup recipe tastes better.

Sydney Martin

I made it home in time to join in on the tail end of dinner. Before bed, we finished up our final Halloween Week activity and decorated some pre-made Halloween cookies and a chocolate cookie graveyard!

  Sydney Martin
Sydney Martin
Thursday
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We really got good bang for our buck with the pumpkin donuts, but on Thursday morning, I needed to come up with something else. I got bagels as a BOGO free sale, and although I didn't have all the ingredients for Bagel Breakfast Sliders, I was able to use it as a good template for egg sandwiches.

bagel sandwiches

I buttered the bagels, sliced some mozzarella, and scrambled a few eggs. The bake time required was only 10 minutes after that!

Sydney Martin

On the tops of the bagels, I used a little bit of oil and added salt, garlic, and everything bagel seasoning for a little added pizzazz.

bagel sandwiches

My son and I each ate one each, but the girls shared one!

Sydney Martin

After school drop-offs, my youngest and I headed to music class for the remainder of the morning.

the author and her daughter
Sydney Martin

Most everyone ate the leftover stuffed pepper soup for lunch, but my husband was feeling a little upset he missed the bagel sandwiches, so he opted for one of those instead.

packed lunch box
Sydney Martin

As I headed into dinner on Thursday night, making Honey Orange Shrimp, I thought things were still right on track. I knew I had some stormy waters coming up at the end of the week, but for now, I felt like it was smooth sailing.

ingredients for honey orange shrimp meal

I was wrong! The good news was that I was able to get BOGO free shrimp. The bad news was that I thought I could make two separate meals.

Sydney Martin

As I started to sauté the shrimp, I quickly realized one bag would not be enough for the entire family. Thankfully, I had the additional bag of shrimp in the freezer, but that meant I was going to be down one entire meal I had planned.

Pots and pans on the stove

Nevertheless, I moved forward — the current batch of shrimp finished cooking while I did a quick thaw on the second batch. Although this recipe required multiple pots and pans, it was nice that all the components could cooked simultaneously. This ensured the meal still came together in a short time.

Sydney Martin

We also were expecting our first snowfall Thursday evening. While I was cooking, my kids split their time between going outside checking for snowflakes and letting their creative juices flow.

The author's daughter coloring

I have a small corner of the pantry where I keep a box of crayons and coloring books. This allows me to have quick access to an activity when needed. Sometimes, this also means the pantry becomes an obstacle course of booby traps.

Sydney Martin

By the time the crayons made it back in the box, it was already time to eat! The flavors of this dish were so prominent and fresh. The orange was accompanied so nicely by the subtle heat of the red pepper flakes.

shrimp and rice in a bowl
Sydney Martin
Friday
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Friday's breakfast was leftover bagel sandwiches...

Bagel sandwiches
Sydney Martin

...followed by playing outside in the snow that had fallen the previous night!

The author's daughters in snow gear
Sydney Martin

Lunch was leftover shrimp and rice.

leftover shrimp and rice in tupperware

There wasn't quite as much shrimp leftover as I would have liked, but thankfully the rice helped bulk things up a bit!

Sydney Martin

Before I knew it, it was time for dinner. My original menu plan had a recipe using pork tenderloin (a mix and match option with the BOGO free tri-tip) for Cranberry Orange Pork Tenderloin. However, my shopper informed me they were out of stock. I was grateful they replaced the free item with another tri-tip, but I now had ingredients for a pork tenderloin with no pork. Thankfully, I came across a recipe for Cranberry Balsamic Beef.

ingredients for cranberry beef recipe

This also allowed me to use the thyme that came in my poultry blend herbs. Due to me measuring out my beef broth for the stuffed pepper soup earlier in the week instead of just adding the entire container, I had the perfect amount of beef broth leftover.

Sydney Martin

The recipe called for cranberry sauce, which I didn't have. Instead, I put fresh cranberries into my food processor, added them into my marinade, and put in 1 additional tablespoon of brown sugar to help with the sweetness.

cranberries chopped in a food processor
Sydney Martin

The beef came out wonderfully, and I pulled out the leftover roasted veggies to reheat.

cranberry balsamic beef

Was this basically the same exact meal I had served earlier in the week? Yes. Was this my original plan? No. Was I pleased with the fact I was able to alter the plan, using what I had, while feeling fortunate our bellies were warm and full? Always, yes.

Sydney Martin
Saturday
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The bagel sandwiches were a hit, so I knew I could make another batch to get us through the rest of the weekend.

bagels with butter in a pan

I also cut up the pineapple I had. I had every intention of making fresh smoothies for snacks during the week, but my kids were only interested in things that came out of a fluorescent pumpkin bucket this week. I give my kids one week to enjoy their treats from Halloween, and then, I pack the rest away, saving most for Christmas cookie baking and decorating.

Sydney Martin

We headed to a birthday party near lunchtime!

the author's daughter with a party hat
Sydney Martin

In the afternoon, we took our Halloween pumpkins to some farm friends. We live in an area that has no shortage of hungry animals!

the author's son watching pigs eat pumpkins
Sydney Martin

Because I had originally planned on making shrimp tacos with the second bag of shrimp, I had a lot of tortillas with no purpose left for them.

dinner on a plate

I kept dinner very basic by cutting some leftover beef, making some rice, and rolling them into a burrito. I simply served with our (free!) chips and more pineapple.

Sydney Martin

My husband and I then set out for a date night where we took a cooking class!

the author and her husband
Sydney Martin
Sunday
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Sunday was all about finishing what we had left! We finished the bagel sandwiches for breakfast.

bagel sandwich on a plate

Just a reminder, not everyone eats an entire bagel sandwich, so we were able to make these stretch!

Sydney Martin

Lunch was a repeat from the previous night's dinner.

leftover ingredients on the counter
Sydney Martin

We also divvied up the last apple.

adult lunch on a plate
Sydney Martin

In the afternoon, we headed to ice skating lessons. While my daughters have aspirations of joining the Ice Capades, my son is working toward his spot on the Colorado Avalanche.

the author and her kids
Sydney Martin

By the time we left the rink, it was already getting dark! I had only a few things left from my shopping list, but knew I could put together something delicious: Pumpkin French Toast.

ingredients for pumpkin french toast

The recipe calls for 4 eggs, but I only had 3 left. Not everything goes according to plan (as we certainly learned this week), but I carried on anyways!

Sydney Martin

I may create some enemies here, but I'm of the opinion that French toast should be a little soggy. If you disagree, you can dry out your bread in the oven prior to soaking in the pumpkin mix.

In moments, we had dinner ready to go! I thought of boiling down some of the leftover fresh cranberry, but ended up keeping things basic. Because the pork tenderloin never came to fruition, we had orange juice to go with our dinner.

french toast on a plate

The juice was also enjoyed throughout the week as well.

Sydney Martin

We finished off the weekend snuggled up on the couch watching Junior Bake Off.

the author and her children

Then, I looked over and saw my avocado still sitting on the counter, unused — ahhh!

Sydney Martin

And that was my week! Wow, did we deal with some curveballs. I wish we'd eaten a bit less red meat (less candy!) and more variety for the end of the week, but the most important part was that we rolled with the punches and never got discouraged.

One of the best things about cooking that I think oftentimes gets lost in the hustle and bustle of life, is that it can be a creative expression that has incredible adaptability. Sometimes, we need to step back and enjoy the challenge of flying by the seat of our pants.

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. Just keep in mind the main takeaway of planning, budgeting, and organizing.

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!

The author's 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, student loans, retirement, investments, and it's something you can feel proud of. You got this!

Darian via Flytographer

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