Cool Ideas

Feed Your Family for just $50 a Week!

By Karen, CoolSavings employee and mom of 2

Feed Your Family for just $50 a Week

It’s all about saving money at the grocery store these days. Food prices continue to increase, whereas paychecks tend to stay the same. Can you feed your family nutritious, tasty meals on just $50 a week? I gave it a try for my family of four. Here are my results.

I planned a week’s menu before hitting the stores. I kept it simple by choosing healthy enough items that my family enjoys and that will fit into our busy school and work schedules. Here is that menu:

Breakfasts: Oatmeal, scrambled eggs and toast, pancakes, apples and bananas

Lunches: Sandwiches (PB&J, egg salad, tuna salad), canned tomato soup and pasta, macaroni & cheese

Dinners:

  1. Pasta with homemade marinara sauce, garlic bread, salad
  2. Turkey tacos (our family favorite), rice
  3. Homemade Chicken Soup, bread and butter
  4. Minestrone Soup, garlic bread, salad
  5. Roasted Chicken and Potatoes, green beans
  6. Two nights of leftovers

Snacks: Baby carrots, chopped celery, wheat thins, chocolate chip cookies, apples, bananas

Drinks: Fruit juice, milk

Once I had my menu, I created the corresponding shopping list and purchased the groceries at Wal-Mart Supercenter and Aldi. These are my usual stores of choice since they tend to have the best prices in the area. As always, having list in hand was very helpful, and I was determined not to spend extra money by veering off of it.

The Results: I did it!!! Well, almost. My total came to $51.18.

What did I do to keep the bill so low? First off, I’m not super brand loyal, so many of the items I purchased were store brands. (This goes unsaid -- I know I’m preaching to the choir here -- but if you’re determined to buy your brands of choice, try hard to find coupons for them as your savings will really add up!) Second off, the homemade chicken soup was a must on this menu (my son has been begging for it!), so I decided to buy a larger bag of frozen chicken breasts (for $5.99) and split them up into the two chicken-based meals for the week.

Is this process doable every week? Well, I’ll find out. With two ravenous, growing boys, I will likely run out of snacks before the week is up. I’m fortunate, however, to have plenty of additional (previously bought) snack items on hand. In addition, I usually also pick up paper goods and spray cleaners during these shopping trips, and there was really no way I could have squeezed these into the $50 budget. These would need a whole separate budget. (Next week’s challenge, maybe?)

Also note that spices, garlic, olive oil, taco sauce, rice, jelly, butter, and salad dressing were items I already had on hand, so I did not need to shop for those items or factor them in to my $50 budget. (Never, ever leave for the grocery store before taking close inventory of what ingredients are already in your pantry and fridge!)

Let’s run through a quick list of to-do’s for saving at the grocery store:

  • Make a budget and stick to it! Don’t shop hungry and don’t bow to the temptation to buy an easy convenience food that will eat up a large chunk of your allotted money (deluxe frozen pizza, anyone?).
  • Pay in cash and only bring the amount you want to spend. This is a surefire way you won’t overspend!
  • Use coupons, especially if you are brand loyal. Clip coupons from your Sunday newspaper inserts and print your coupons online from CoolSavings.
  • Know your store’s policies regarding coupons, substitutions, and limits on sale item purchases. Having this valuable information will help you make decisions when stocking up on items. (Speaking of stocking up, remember that if you’re able to keep your bottom-line grocery bill down, this will free up money to use for stock-up items.)
  • As stated above, before leaving for the grocery store, figure out which ingredients called for in your menu are already sitting in your pantry.
  • The key to saving is to make a significant portion of your meals from scratch. If you’re short on time (who isn’t these days?), set aside a weekend afternoon to do any advance chopping, mixing and cooking for the week’s dinners. Pasta sauces and soups can be made in advance and then refrigerated or frozen, and I always find they taste better when the flavors have had more time to mix!
  • Need recipe ideas? Check out CoolSavings’ Recipes page where you’ll find some mouthwatering menu ideas such as Chicken Enchilada Skillet, Classic Spaghetti Meat Sauce, Easy Slow Cooker Beef Stew, Orange Barbecued Ribs, and lots more.

I was hoping to be able to tell you I’d had enough leftover cash in hand to have picked up a grande cup of Starbucks bold on the way home. Seeing as that wasn’t the case, I’ll have to try harder next trip! (I just knew those chocolate chip cookies were going to put me over the top!)

What do you do to save at the grocery store? Share your tips and experiences with other CoolSavings members on Facebook and on our Community page. Also be sure to check out CoolSavings’ Grocery page, which is full of printable and online coupons, along with more articles on saving money at the grocery store.

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