How I Feed My Family Real Food for $350 a Month
Guest post by Tiffany Terczak
Every year, people across the world are making New Year’s resolutions. The goals are big and wide, ranging from eating healthier to saving up for a down payment on a house.
When we first got married, my husband and I simply wanted to get out of debt.
We worked really, really hard for a long time, but we didn’t truly see the fruits of our efforts until we hit year two and finally created a grocery budget.
Despite everything else, creating a grocery budget was not just key to getting ahead, but actually saving money each month instead of just making ends meet. Just when I thought we found our rhythm between food and finances, my husband threw me a curve ball. He said he wanted to eat real food, and politely asked me to stop cooking dinner from a box.
This seemed to be an easy request at first, but after just a few weeks, I struggled big time with finding the balance between healthy food and our grocery budget (being a former couponer). Real food seemed so expensive, and our grocery budget at the time was only $330/month. How could I possibly make the puzzle pieces fit?!
Is eating real food on a budget even possible?
A few of the blogs I was reading kept touting the amazingness of meal planning and how it made eating on a budget easier. I had never tried it, but given the fact that I was desperate to find a solution, I figured it couldn’t hurt to try… right?
So I made a commitment to meal plan for one month – just January 2013. I figured if it DID work, then I could re-commit and do it again. If it DIDN’T work, then I could call the whole thing quits. No harm, no foul.
[Tweet “Creating my first monthly meal plan gave me hope that eating real food on a budget IS possible.”]
Reaping the rewards of meal planning after just one month, I continued the resolution and made another plan month after month, and eventually sharing these plans on my blog.
Soon those monthly meal plans churned up shopping lists that kept my spending on track and practical prep lists to help me get ahead for the week. I incorporated slow-cooker meals for the busy weeknights and made a second batch for the freezer when there was extra time.
On top of all of this, I routinely used my tried-and-true money-saving tips and tricks to keep my grocery budget in line. And you know what? It finally worked! It’s not in my character though, to sit idly on the sidelines while others struggle with the same problem I had. That’s why I created Frugal Real Food Meal Plans.
Frugal Real Food Meal Plans Not Only Makes it Possible, but Practical!
Frugal Real Food Meal Plans is everything the frugal foodie you could want in a meal plan. Dinners every night. Ideas for breakfast and lunches every week. Even suggestions for dessert, hosting company and bringing a dish to a pot-luck! There are shopping lists, prep lists and pricing guides. Tools to help you keep track of what’s already in the kitchen and advice on how to re-use random leftovers.
Need ideas for what to do with leftover diced apples? Or what foods you should stock up on this season? This plan has you covered, because it’s how I keep our grocery budget at $330 each month.
We’ve held absolutely nothing back in this meal planning subscription. With free budgeting tools on top of an already information-packed meal plan, Frugal Real Food Meal Plans is a complete guidebook teaching you step-by-step how to eat real food on a budget!
It’s my passion to share Frugal Real Food Meal Plans with you, but I know that it won’t be the right fit for every family. That’s why I encourage you to first visit Frugal Real Food Meal Plans to learn more. Then download the free 14-day sample plan to see what a meal plan looks like, the detail and pricing guide in the shopping lists and ideas for getting ahead in the kitchen each week.
After you test the user-friendliness of the program, visit again because Frugal Real Food Meal Plans is celebrating it’s debut in true budgeting style – with HUGE discounts!
Plans are available for as little as $7.99/month through January 5, 2015. After this, the price goes up.
From one frugal mom to another, if you’re interested, don’t wait to check out Frugal Real Food Meal Plans! For as little as $1.84 each week, you can feed your family real food in a practical way, without going broke. My family and I are proof that real food doesn’t have to be expensive. If you struggle in this area, we would be honored to help.
Let me ask you this – how big is your family and what is your grocery budget? I’ll go first. We’re a family of four and we spend $330 a month.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. When you buy through our links, we earn a small commission, which helps to keep this site going so that we can continue to offer free and useful content, so thanks!
Stephanie, being you have put this online for Tiffany and you yourself live in Canada, what is a realistic goal for us to get down to month to month for say a family of 4? Will these food plans work for a Canadian or is it best to just keep coming up with our own frugal meals? These types of questions stopped me from purchasing. I have gotten my bill down to $600 from $800 for our family of four, fifth on the way. That is me not buying organic unless cheaper and no raw milk because that is difficult in Alberta. I buy cheap butter because the better quality is $8.99. I do buy a side of beef but the last one cost me $7.75 a pound. The farmers markets in my area are small and not very affordable compared to what I hear of in the States. So what is a good goal to strive for? Kim.
Hi Kim! I’m not Stephanie (obviously), but I thought I’d chime in with some additional thoughts. I know food is more expensive in Canada, and that there’s really no way around that, but I believe the concept behind Frugal Real Food Meal Plans can be applied across the globe:
– meals are simple with common ingredients
– there’s a defined system for ensuring you’re using what’s already at home BEFORE buying more food
– produce is seasonal
– cheaper cuts of meat are used and there’s a few meatless meals
– most items are made from scratch
I can’t offer you a typical food budget for anyone, since even in the states prices vary greatly from region to region, but what I can offer is a meal plan with nutritious meals that rely on typically inexpensive ingredients. I think that local/grass-fed/organic food is great, but it’s not in the cards for all families and not required for a whole foods diet. You’ll just find “butter” on the shopping list, and then it’s up to you to determine what kind of butter you want to buy.
I’m more than happy to answer any other questions you might have! Also, the 14-day sample menu may offer additional insight: http://mealplans.dontwastethecrumbs.com/faqs/
Great question, Kim! It’s sort of funny, actually, because I wrote a series of two posts about 3 years ago, based on prices in my local Canadian store. Now, I wasn’t including much for organics, but focusing just on real, whole nourishing foods in the first post, and back then I said that I could do it for $250 per month for 2 adults (a husband that doesn’t eat quite as much as some men do), two kids and one small toddler. I just went back to that post a couple weeks ago and edited to say that with rising food prices, I think I’d currently be hard pressed to do it for less than $350, but I think it could be done at that price. Now, my budget was a total bare bones budget and as I said, not organics. It was how I would feed our family if we truly didn’t have more money than that. I haven’t seen Tiffany’s meal plans yet, but I have a feeling our methods are fairly similar. Canadian food prices are definitely higher than in most parts of the US, for sure (I know, because I travel in the US quite frequently and often go to grocery stores). I have to say that if I wanted to feed a family of 2 adults and 2 elementary school kids, including organics/clean foods as much as possible (beyond simply whole foods), I might want more like $400-$450 in Canada, but if you needed to, you could probably get by on a bit less. Anyways, here’s the link to my previous post, and if you go on to the second post in the series, it explains in more detail how I would really maximize my budget further – https://keeperofthehome.org/2012/01/what-i-would-feed-my-family-on-a-monthly-budget-of-250.html.
Thanks for answering about a goal to strive for. My children are older than elementary but are not eating me out of house and home yet. I also am pregnant so I will soon be five. My current goal budget $600, includes toiletries too does yours? I was spending more like $800 before so I am happy to go down to here. But I will continue to see if I can go even farther. I made an intense menu plan for January and will see what will happen with my budget being that it is all laid out. To really make it work I made a prep list for each day to tackle the soaking, thawing, etc. Now i just pray that I am able to keep up and ahead because a plan is only good if you can follow it. I will have to plan next month to incorporate more freezer meals so if something changes which is very normal with life, I cannot be tempted to eat out. We definitely need to give ourselves grace in this journey and just keep trying our best praying for the Lord to guide and work in us.
We’re a family of 5 and we spend $700/month on real food. I don’t know how I could possibly get that lower.
Hi Christy! It takes work, but it’s possible! We certainly don’t eat fancy, but it’s all real food! 🙂
We are a family of five and our goal is to stay under $200 a month. More than that is out of the question. Our biggest expense is raw milk at $35 a month. After that, we eat a lot of pasta and beans. Eggs or oatmeal are our usual breakfast and it is a treat to eat meat from a local farm. We garden in the summer. I WISH we could spend more on food, but doing so would mean we are working more hours and spending more time away from each other.
Wow Kim! I’m super impressed by your budget, but most of all impressed that you know what your limits are and you’re willing to work hard to stay within them. Kudos!!
Where do I find the link for the 14 day sample plan? I’m not seeing it on the Frugal Real Food Meal Plans page.
Hi Tamara! You can find it here: http://mealplans.dontwastethecrumbs.com/faqs/
I have to smile at this. $350/month for a family of 4? That’s less than $90/person for the month. That is simply unrealistic for our family. We currently eat whole foods, and because of health reasons, mostly organic. We eat “clean” meat (grass-fed beef, pastured poultry, and wild-caught fish). Even if we switch to non-organic conventional grocery purchasing, I simply cannot get the grocery budget down that low. Why? Because we have teenage boys. My husband and I eat a “normal” amount of food, as does our 10 year old. But the two teens? Oh. My. Goodness. The two of them can out-eat the rest of us. And still look for more food. We rarely have “leftovers,” and when we do, they are almost always eaten before they have a chance to become a science experiment.
Just for the record: we normally spend between $1,000-$1,200/month on food. (Not including toiletries and paper products. This is just stuff we eat!) Perhaps I could reduce it a little, but down to $450 (at $90/person)? I’d have a revolt on my hands, if the teens didn’t keel over from starvation first!
Hi Kathleen! Our grocery budget cannot be applied across the board to every family, but the money saving tips and techniques we use certainly can! I’m also fortunate to have elementary aged kids at the moment. I’m sure things will change as they grow. 🙂
Can’t find the free 14 day sample plan.
You can find the 14-day meal plan sample here: http://mealplans.dontwastethecrumbs.com/faqs/ (under the “How will I know my family will like what’s on the meal plan?” question). 🙂
I have a family of 9 with three older teenage girls and a boy about to become one. We spend $800 a month as that is all the money I have.
I dislike rising prices and am looking forward to sampling this program.
I dislike the rising prices too Sara! This meal plan is specifically designed for eating well on a limited budget, so I have no doubt it will help you learn to creatively make your grocery budget work for your family!
Sounds interesting, but rather than buy a trial, it would have been nice to be able to see say maybe a 3 day plan just to get the feel of it before actually purchasing.
Hi Cindy! You can find a 14-day sample plan here:
I’ve clicked on all the links you’ve provided to find the 14 day sample menu but I’m not seeing it. Are you referring to the 14 day refund as the free sample menu? Or is there a sample menu that I’m missing?
It’s under the “How will I know my family will like what’s on the meal plan?” question. 🙂
I always enjoy reading these types of posts and I’ve chimed in before on this matter, but I don’t believe there’s any way around it for those of us living in Canada. Simply put, it is necessary for us to spend more money on feeding our families real food. Especially those of us on special diets such as Paleo, AIP, etc. We eat gluten-free and very low grain generally speaking, and thus consume a lot of meat and vegetables at every meal. This means our grocery bill for a family of three adults and two dogs (and I make all their food too), instead of shrinking, has actually skyrocketed. And I don’t even buy everything organic at all nor do I buy raw dairy any longer (across the border) since I am largely dairy-free. I do shop at Whole Foods and another, local natural market (that is known for cheaper prices), as well as a local, natural butcher for many of our meat needs. What amazes me is that Whole Foods is often cheaper on many items (particularly with their house brand) than even the regular conventional grocery stores around here.
I suppose that if one doesn’t live right in the city, as we do, there are less expensive options such as farm stands, direct-from-the-farm purchases, bartering, etc. But for those of us stuck in metro areas, there doesn’t seem to be much hope for improving the grocery budget. Even if I buy direct from local farms, many of them charge pretty high prices for their products, particularly meat. It’s not that I think real food shouldn’t cost what it is actually worth (because let’s face it, with cheap food, someone pays the price somewhere down the line), I guess it’s just hard for us Canadians (though I am dual) to stomach the fact that people living elsewhere can eat real food for such a low cost, when for us this would only be a dream.
Jana, I’m going to copy and paste the answer that I gave Kim (another fellow Canadian below) and just briefly say that I think that in Canada we might need to up the budget slightly (maybe $400-$450) but that it could be done very similarly, and I have lived in the Vancouver area (in a suburb – Surrey/Langley area for the past 10 years, and I am also extremely familiar with US food prices).
“Great question, Kim! It’s sort of funny, actually, because I wrote a series of two posts about 3 years ago, based on prices in my local Canadian store. Now, I wasn’t including much for organics, but focusing just on real, whole nourishing foods in the first post, and back then I said that I could do it for $250 per month for 2 adults (a husband that doesn’t eat quite as much as some men do), two kids and one small toddler. I just went back to that post a couple weeks ago and edited to say that with rising food prices, I think I’d currently be hard pressed to do it for less than $350, but I think it could be done at that price. Now, my budget was a total bare bones budget and as I said, not organics. It was how I would feed our family if we truly didn’t have more money than that. I haven’t seen Tiffany’s meal plans yet, but I have a feeling our methods are fairly similar. Canadian food prices are definitely higher than in most parts of the US, for sure (I know, because I travel in the US quite frequently and often go to grocery stores). I have to say that if I wanted to feed a family of 2 adults and 2 elementary school kids, including organics/clean foods as much as possible (beyond simply whole foods), I might want more like $400-$450 in Canada, but if you needed to, you could probably get by on a bit less. Anyways, here’s the link to my previous post, and if you go on to the second post in the series, it explains in more detail how I would really maximize my budget further – https://keeperofthehome.org/2012/01/what-i-would-feed-my-family-on-a-monthly-budget-of-250.html.”
Thanks Stephanie for the good info. I think we’ve had a conversation about this in the past, actually 🙂 In any case, I do think that eating low-grain or grain-free will definitely make the budget a lot higher, even so. I seem to recall that your past budgets included some grains. And with the terrible exchange rate right now, it doesn’t make sense for us to grocery shop down south (as we used to, to save money and source products unavailable here), sadly.
Personally I think it would be great to read some other perspectives from Canadian bloggers from time to time, when you’re planning your guest postings. 🙂
Thank you for this post! I’m trying to locate the 14-day sample meal plan so I can see if this will be right for my family, however I’m not finding any link for it….can you please direct me? Thank you!
Absolutely! It’s right here Takiyah: http://mealplans.dontwastethecrumbs.com/faqs/
We are a family of 5 and live off a whole foods, all from scratch, organic diet. Is it possible to follow your method 100% organic? Our monthly bill is far higher than we would like due to buying organics.
Hi Nicole! You can absolutely follow the plan buying 100% organic, but as you know, your monthly budget will vary due to costs in different regions. HOWEVER, I will say that if you use the system, you will definitely save money. In fact, I just had a reader tell me on Facebook that she shopped week 1 with 100% organic and Einkorn flour and spent only 20% of what she usually spends!!
We’re a family of 5 and our budget is $350/every 2 weeks, but I know we go over this every month by a couple hundred dollars. We have several food sensitivities to work with though…dairy, gluten, sugar and now fructose! I am looking forward to reading your materials about how to save money in this area.
To add to this….we raise our own animals to eat. I don’t have any meat expenses right now and still spend that much money. If I had to buy meat, we would be in BIG trouble!
Hi Jennifer! I think you’re doing an amazing job with your budget. Working around food sensitivities and intolerances is difficult, but it sounds like you’ve found a way to make it work with your family! And I LOVE the fact that you raise your own animals to eat. That’s one of my 5-year goals, to have chickens for eggs. I don’t know if we’ll ever get past that in our semi-city rented townhouse, but you gotta start somewhere, right? I hope you find inspiration and new ideas in the meal plan. Let me know if you have any questions!
I’m not seeing where I can download a sample plan. Where is it? I’m very curious about this meal planning system, but I’d really like to see the sample first.
You can find the 14-day meal plan sample here: http://mealplans.dontwastethecrumbs.com/faqs/ (under the “How will I know my family will like what’s on the meal plan?” question). 🙂
When I clicked on that Rebecca it takes me the paid joined section.
Hmm…there should be a list of questions on that page. When you scroll down, one is “How will I know my family will like what’s on the meal plan?” and the download link is under that one.
We’re a family of five and I spent $550 last month. I wouldn’t mind taking $200 off that though!
Hi, I appreciate the helpful hints on this subject but the author of the article has two children under 10. That is why she can keep her budget under $350. Just wait until they are in their teens. I use to feel slightly incompetent if I wasnt able to feed my family under $350 and this was when I had three teens!