I am a mom to a 2 year old, so feeding a family of three AND being healthy can be tricky on a tight budget. I am about to tell you how to buy all the food you need for the week without couponing, planning around store sales, and without being restricted to eating rice and beans (organic of course!). I am not sure if people don’t have the time to sit down and really do the math to plan a smart menu, or if they really just buy into the notion that eating healthy is expensive. Sure, you will probably spend a little more on average to make healthier food choices, but the dollar amount is not enough to have me running back to the Oreos and Cheez-Its. When I talk to most families on a food budget (to feed a family of 4), I hear that they like to keep it at $100 per week. I will show you how to eat healthy and buy organic meats for $110. Remember, for every unhealthy food/snack option there is a healthy option of equal value!! You just have to find it! The trick for me was finding which store had the best prices. It takes a little time (and money) to learn the hard way, but making 3 grocery stops is a small price to pay for saving big when it comes to our grocery bill. *If you are looking to go gluten free or if you have some other special diet, then you may have to spend a little more money than listed in this post. I am not 100% gluten free, but I try to eat most items gluten free and keep my meals as clean-eating friendly as possible. I am going to lay out what my family has on hand at all times (at least when I have made it to the grocery store). I shop at Costco, Trader Joes and Target (you can pick your local grocery store i.e. Publix, Food Lion, Harris Teeter, BI-LO, Safeway, Giant, etc.) every week. I do not coupon!! I repeat, I do not coupon. BOGO sale, maybe. I have never once clipped or given a coupon at the register. I am no expert in the couponing world, clearly, but I will say, the few times I decided to maybe give it a whirl, I never found coupons for the “healthy” stuff I needed. Target had the best coupons out of anyone I have seen for the “health conscious” mom, however. Here is a week’s menu for our family for each meal: Breakfast:
- Breakfast bars
- GF waffles
- Cereal (Healthy granola or GF Rice Chex)
- Peanut butter and jelly (all-natural, no preservatives)
- Lunch meat sandwich on GF bread or whole grain bread
- Peanut butter, banana and honey roll up on a whole wheat wrap
- Stir fry of carrots, broccoli, spinach, potatoes
- Taco Salad
- Grilled Chicken- side of asparagus
- Pasta dish
- Salmon patties OR zucchini patties- side of fries
- Hamburgers on the grill- side of Brussel Sprouts
*NOTE- Plan your meals to be simple and within a clean eating regimen. This will cut down on the extra packaged goods you may want to buy. Stick to Meat-Veggies-(Rice/Potato/Pasta)-Fruit Dessert:
- GF brownies- Costco ($8.99 for a pack of 3 mixes)
- Ice cream (Breyers 2 for $5 when on sale)
Snack options (throughout the day or for lunch):
- Watermelon ($3.99) comparable to the box of Cheez-Its ($3.99)
- Strawberries ($2.99) comparable to the box of fruit snacks ($3)
- Blueberries ($3.99) (when in season) comparable to Graham crackers ($3.99)
- Tostitos and salsa (2 for $5 on sale)
- Potato Chips-baked kind (2 for $5 on sale)
- Apples and peanut butter($1) comparable to bag of M&Ms ($4)
Drinks: We drink milk and water. No soda and not even juice (this is a big money saver)! Since we juice our own stuff, I don’t feel the need to buy juice. Also, I do not feel like alcohol should get added to the food budget. I keep it in the “Entertainment” category of our family budget. Shopping lists for the week: *All prices may vary by location, but these are accurate based on my local stores.
- Trader Joes:
Trader Joes has the best price on produce ANYWHERE. And most of the time they have a regular option as well as organic. Their bananas are cheaper than any other store- my accountant husband has made the brutal calculation. Even Costco, who can have great prices on bulk items tends to be pricier for their fruit, unless the berries are in season. Pears, apples, kiwi, celery, oranges, and avocados are the same or cheaper than Costco, but Trader Joes has a more organic selection-SCORE! I prefer organic but it isn’t my hill to die on if they don’t have it. I just give my fruits and veggies a good wash before juicing them or eating them for my snack. Don’t have a Trader Joes? Hit up your local farmers market! They usually have the best deals on produce and it’s LOCAL! I ONLY buy my fresh produce from Trader Joes and the Trader Joes brand of Oreos (that they also have in GF) for $2.99 and GF for $3.99. Okay, and maybe their $3 bottle of wine. I leave the store spending $20 and keep in mind I juice a few times a week so that will hold me over for one week.
Costco is my biggest expense- SHOCKER! But I am able to get most of my big staple items and really save while doing it. Now I just need to invest in a second freezer.
- Breakfast Bars-pack of 24 ($8.99),
- 7lb bag of organic carrots($7.99)
- 4lb organic beef ($4.49lb),
- organic chicken breast ($4.99lb)
- 2 ½-gallons of organic milk ($7.99)
- 2 loaves GF bread or whole grain bread ($6.49)
- 15 Chobani yogurt pack ($13.50)
- 1lb organic salad pack ($4.99)
- Brussel sprouts ($3.99),
- Asparagus ($3.99)
- Broccoli ($3.99)
I usually spend about $100 when I go into Costco for just food but because this stuff is in bulk and usually organic, it will last me 2 weeks. So that is $50 a week. The meat really racks up the bill, but it’s the price you pay for organic. I feel like the meat is worth the splurges so I just look away from the price tag.
- Local grocery store i.e. Target:
Lunch meat, canned goods, GF waffles or regular waffles ($3.99), ice cream (2 for $5 on sale), cheese, pasta, pasta sauce, chips etc… Total at Target is usually $40 for a week Grand Total: So, between those three stores to feed my family of 3-4, I spend about $110 on food every week for 5 meals. We usually have one night of leftovers, and the other night is reserved for eating out. This is with no coupons and not really keeping up great with the sales. I do not plan my menu around the sales. *Tips for the distracted shopper (hand raised!):
- Stick to your list – I know this sounds so basic, but really! If you have a good list and know that those items will get you by for the week, don’t spend another $20 on extra items. It is so easy to do, but there goes the “healthy food budget”.
- Stay to the ends of the aisles – I once read this tip and started paying attention to the stores to see if most items I needed were on the ends. They were!! There is the occasional random spice or mustard that may be mid-aisle, but generally, the staples and sale items are on display on the ends or near the end.
- Don’t buy every item that is on sale – I sometimes do this. Oh! Worcestershire sauce is 2 for $5! Well #1, you most likely won’t use 2 bottles anytime soon and you just spent an additional $2.50 that you didn’t HAVE to spend to get that sale. Also, unless you are out of the item completely, don’t buy it until the next trip, when it is planned for on the list.
- Don’t take your husband – He complains about our expenses the most, but when he gets in the grocery store it’s like open season. I probably spend $20-$50 more when he is with me or if I just send him running to the store “for 2 things”…famous last words.
It is possible to feed your family clean and organic food without draining your wallet. You just have to be smart, find your staple items, and maybe make a few more stops to do it!
Andrea Rowley is a work-at-home mom. She is a part-time hairstylist and loves being able to spend her days with her energetic 2 year-old, Graham. She lives in Greenville, SC, but is a mid-westerner at heart, originally from Ohio. Her husband of 3 years is an accountant, so staying on top of the family finances is a priority. For this family of 3, focusing on eating healthy, bike riding on the weekends, and doing Pinterest-inspired projects around the house take up their spare time. She loves writing on her blog, To Love Beauty which covers topics from beauty, to food, to parenting. You can find her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/andrea.s.rowley and on Twitter: @ToLoveBeauty