How I feed my family “real food” on a budget

A few weeks ago, I sent out an email to my MOMables subscribers that led to a lot of replies. Nearly all of them asked: how do you feed your family of 5 “real food” and entertain others on $150 per week? 

how to shop for your family real food and organic food on a budget

What they really wanted to know is how is:

  • How do you buy organic dairy, meat and produce on a budget?
  • What foods do you buy in bulk?
  • What do you make from scratch?
  • What are some of your money saving tips?

It’s no secret that I cook a lot. I talk about food, read about food, write about food and eat food The funny thing is, that shopping for food isn’t my favorite thing to do. I wish I had a shopping assistant -or a Whole Foods near by. Instead, I have to go to 2-3 groceries each week to get all the things I need.

Meal planning is easy. I add 2-3 new dinners and 2-3 new lunch ideas each week from the MOMables Meal Plans and then I keep our tried and true favorites. Being on a budget doesn’t mean I have to make the same frugal meals every week. I make sure to use the same ingredients from any of the lunch items into another meal, this way food is rarely wasted and used up at the end of the week.

Example: we have quesadillas for lunch. that means I am going to need chicken and tortillas. Therefore, I am going to plan a dinner that will yield grilled chicken and another that will also utilize tortillas. I save time and money on wasted food. Win-win. By grilling or prepping what I need ahead of time I save a lot of time. I also don’t need to buy those pre-grilled chicken strips made with lord-knows-what.

Eating out and convenience foods are a lot more expensive.  Proof: last Friday I had a meeting outside the office and my husband wanted me to have “lunch” with him. We went to a local deli that has a lot of healthy options and we spent $22! Yikes. On ONE meal. I thought to myself: I can feed my entire family with that for a day! OK, It was a nice lunch date. 

Now you know another reason why I pack all of our lunches. I am going to apologize for the pictures that come next. They are unedited and were “dumped”  from my iPhone. 

This was our plan for the week:
Sunday: (B) Big family breakfast (L) grilled paninis (D) Chicken and vegetable skewershomemade Italian baked beans, corn on the cob, homemade focaccia.

Monday: (B) banana flax bread and breakfast quiche (L) chicken quesadillas (D) Italian meatball pasta

Tuesday: (B) Homemade bagels (recipe not worth sharing, they were very…chewy) & veggie scramble (L) Ultimate morning glory sandwiches (D)Blackened fish tacos, grilled vegetables, creole slaw

Wednesday: (B) Easy homemade green egg(spinach) “McMuffin” (these were previously made and frozen) (L) Deep dish ham and veggie calzones (D) Panini Night (used last of focaccia bread, chicken and grilled veggies)

Thursday: (B) Blueberry muffins fruit (L) Avocado school sushi (no fish), strawberry yogurt dip and fruit  (D) Breakfast night! I dropped the last of the eggs so it was a little bit of a flop. Not that they complained about bacon (organic, uncured and nitrate free) and my famous homemade Pillsbury honey wheat grands!and fruit

Friday: (B) raspberry “cheesecake” filled biscuits (biscuits, cream cheese and fresh raspberries), (L) egg salad sandwiches (D) Homemade pizza night!

Saturday: (B) Chocolate chip scones and fruit salad (L) Vegetable fried rice (here is where I use any leftovers veggies from the week)  (D) Navy bean soup (previously made and frozen) fruit sorbet and popsicles (I take all leftover fruit from the week and make a fruit sorbet or popsicles

I made a caramelized onions, spinach and gouda quiche and a loaf of bread for my neighbor on sunday. In return, she gave me a basket of veggies from her garden.  I made a double batch of blueberry muffins and froze them for another week as well.

I only mentioned the big meals. For “snacks” there is fresh fruit available (always) and I’m usually recipe testing a baked item or two for MOMables.

My weekly budget is $150. I usually spend anywhere between $130-$150. This week I splurged and purchased additional organic chicken because I knew my neighbor was going out of town and she was giving me a lot of veggies.

Ways I save:

  • I make a plan. Seems obvious coming from me, right? But it’s TRUE. I sit down with my MOMables weekly plan, choose the meals I will make, add a few of our favorites with similar ingredients, and then make a list.
  • I make all of our baked goods. A can of grands! biscuits has ingredients I don’t like and it’s $2.79 for 6 biscuits. I make my own for around $.86.  I buy white flour but I also grind my own wheat. I have a bread machine I put to work in the hot summer months. Otherwise, My oven is on for a few hours on Sunday and every other night after dinner (almost). *2015 Update* We now have a gluten-free house. The only way to make baked goods affordable is by making them ourselves.
  • I buy rice, wheat and beans in bulk. We eat legumes once a week. I don’t buy a small bag for that week or a can of beans. I pay on average .58cents per lb of beans. I buy in bulk, store and make. I also make double or triple the batch and freeze is 1 1/2 cup portions (like a can). Huge savings.
  • I don’t use coupons. Shocking, I know. I rarely find coupons for real food. Instead, I stock up when things are on sale like the organic boneless skinless chicken breasts at $3.99lb! I also find that using coupons leads to spending money outside of my meal plan. Note: if you use coupons, that is totally ok. I rarely do. The only times I use coupons is on bulk coffee, organic yogurt and some cheeses. There aren’t a lot of coupons for those of us who shop the perimeter.
  • Limit dairy. Yes, kids need dairy and all that… but not as much as you think if you make your own breads, eat a varied diet and eat your minerals from other sources. I insert a lot of nutrients in my baked goods.  I buy a big tub of yogurt instead of the 6pk ones (unless I have coupons and they are on sale). This is organic too.
  • No juices. If I buy juice it’s usually Martinelli’s by the half a gallon and when it’s on sale. It’s US grown, it has a strong apple flavor and I dilute it.
  • No boxed snacks. I make nearly all of our snacks. You can find a lot of them in our pinterest page and our subscription members are getting ready to have a homemade staples “guide” made just for them. I do have a box of goldfish from Sams at all times because we have kids that come play at our house and often ask for “boxed” snacks (oh well).
  • I buy 1lb of organic “lunchmeat” for the week at $9.99-10.99 per lb. That’s it. This forces me to get creative with my lunches (good thing that’s what I do). Some weeks, I don’t buy it at all.
  • No boxed cereals for breakfast. I buy 1-2 boxes of cereal per month (with a coupon). It’s the one late night treat my husband can’t give up. Cereals are filled with a lot of non-necessary ingredients, are expensive and well, they use milk (also expensive). I make a nutritious bread, scramble eggs..etc.
  • Buy cheese in bulk. I buy 2.5lbs of Cheddar cheese that is antibiotic and hormone free for $9.99. Behind the deli counter is that much per pound! I slice it or grate it myself. It lasts 2-3 weeks (depending on what I’m cooking)
  • I buy the produce we’ll eat. I don’t just “buy” fruit and veggies, I figure out which ones I need and then buy that. Some weeks I get it from a neighbor, or, I’ll switch ingredients in certain dishes (like spinach instead of broccoli) because it was cheaper that week (and organic).

Other ways I save around the house:

  • I use cloth towels to clean and pick up all sorts of messes. I rarely use paper towels. A $16 pack of paper towels from Sams lasts my family 6-9 months.
  • I don’t buy the expensive detergent. I pre-treat all my stains and use an eco detergent that is much cheaper (like half the prize) form the orange detergent.
  • I use cloth diapers.  I’ve cloth diapered all my kids and used disposables when they were being cared by someone else. Baby G uses disposable while he is at school and cloth at home.*2015 update* we are no longer cloth diapering.
  • I get $20 haircuts twice a year and color my own hair. 
  • I buy in bulk with my mom. You could do this with a friend. That 25lb bag or rice of flour you dont’ have room to store? split it with a friend.
  • I shop Amazon for specialty items. Things like coconut flour , oils, organic items and spices (among others).
  • I shop online for vitamins. Vitamins and drugstore stuff can add up. I shop Vitacost for a lot of my organic items.
  • We drink water. Sounds funny but it’s true. Drinking water saves you a lot of money. Plus it’s good for you!
  • Reuse our clothes. I have a one-outfit-per-day policy with my kids (of course unless they get soaked or spill something). They change in the morning and stay in them until night time. If they are clean they get used again. Saves the clothes, saves money on water and electricity…etc.
  • I buy used clothes, swap clothes or stock up in clothes for next year after the season. I’ve bought many clothes for my kids “for next year” for as little as 98 cents! I don’t go to 20 stores to find the best deal, I just go in after season and stock up. Same thing with school uniforms. I buy the following year’s uniform in Sept/October when stores are clearing them out.
  • $1 store deals. I buy birthday cards, zip bags and a few other little things at the dollar store.

I know there are many more ways to save, but these are just some of the ones I do to help us stay on budget. Our $150 is spent on food only for a family of 4. *2015 update* We are now a family of 6 and the budget is $200 per week.

What are some of your tips to stay on budget?

June 1, 2013

Leave a Reply 90 comments

Rebecca - June 1, 2013 Reply

Love this post! I never really thought about buying bulk with only 4 of us, but buying the right items is certainly worth it. My only addition for staying on budget (and getting chemical free produce and grass-fed meat) is taking advantage of your local farmer’s market or CSA. Pretty much buy local and in season whenever you can. That is a huge budget saver for me.

    Laura Fuentes - June 1, 2013 Reply

    Thank you for mentioning the CSA factor Rebecca! While CSAs are great for some people, where I live is very expensive and not as cost effective for me. I’m hoping it gets better.

      Marie - March 19, 2015 Reply

      I, too, find that CSAs (or farmers markets) cost more than buying produce in the grocery store. And in the summer, my grocery store carries a lot of local produce.

        Laura Fuentes - March 20, 2015 Reply

        Of course, I really think it depends on where you live. But I’m with you. It’s more expensive here.

Cassie Webster - June 1, 2013 Reply

I do many of these too! My family of 6 work off of $250 a week and it is hard to choose real foods! But reading your blog and 100 days of Real Food are helping me keep my family healthy, so thank you! 🙂 P.S. (for your readers) I try to work on $10-15 a dinner. It is totally do-able!

    Laura Fuentes - June 1, 2013 Reply

    $250 week! wow! What I could do with that Cassie!! 🙂 you are right. $10-15 dinners are totally do-a-ble. Some nights is cheaper others more. I find that the less boxed and the more bulk I buy the more I stretch my budget.

Grace Houle - June 2, 2013 Reply

Your menu made me hungry! You sound like an awesome cook, I think you are going to have an unexpected guest over for dinner!

    Laura Fuentes - June 2, 2013 Reply

    Come on over Grace! And thank you. I cook very basic meals for my family. Most take under 30min to put together and yield leftovers. That’s almost a must!

Mary Saylor - June 2, 2013 Reply

I save money on spices/herbs by buying on line at The Spice Sage- they are priced by the ounce- and you can buy as little as 1 oz packages. For the price of 1 bottle purchased in the grocery store – I can get 3 or more different spices. Also if you look around where you live – health food stores sometimes have bulk spices that you can purchase small amounts of.

    Laura Fuentes - June 2, 2013 Reply

    Yes! Spices are often cheaper online and so much fresher!! 🙂

      Marie - March 19, 2015 Reply

      Another good place for spices is the bulk section. Whole Foods has a really good one, but many other stores do, too. I just bought a bag of marjoram for $0.04! And organic. A jar of McCormick would probably have cost $4.

        Laura Fuentes - March 20, 2015 Reply

        yes! spices in bulk are great! fantastic tip.

Alexis - June 2, 2013 Reply

I am speechless! (And that never happens). Wow.

We spend WAAAY more than that. To be honest I’ll never be able to match you on cooking because we’ll never cook that much. It’s not a realistic goal for our family. I would love to be the Mom who bakes her own bread and such but that’s just not in my DNA 🙂

Although looking at your menu I’m realizing that we could definitely cut down on meat, cereal, and juice. For example we always offer juice at breakfast (the fancy super $$$ kind that is sugar-free and is more like a smoothie). Maybe I could make my own? Maybe we could offer it only a few days a week? Definitely some room for creativity there.

So thanks for sharing this lovely post. While I’m still horrified by what WE spend it’s definitely sparked some new thoughts on where we could cut back!

    Laura Fuentes - June 2, 2013 Reply

    Alexis, you have to do what works for your family. I use my bread machine 80% of the time. It’s a myth that making bread is very time consuming! My bread assistant is one way I do it. Late night baking is a way I de-stress too. So it’s a win win. Yes, I save a lot of money because we don’t eat a lot of meat. “Meat is 1-2days a week, beans 1, fish 1, breakfast 1, pizza night 1x and vegetables another. Give or take.
    Again, do what works for your family. But the most important thing to realize is that you can’t have expensive items, convenience and fresh food and not blow off a budget. I’m willing to give up on convenience and not quality to stay on budget. 🙂

Rachel @ Following In My Shoes - June 2, 2013 Reply

Ok, this post made me smile … because this is EXACTLY the way I approach our meals, purchases, lifestyle, etc. Our grocery budget is about the same … and I always feel guilty that it’s “too much” since just a few years ago, I could get groceries for $50-75 a week. BUT … then I have to remind myself that (1) I’ve added two more tummies to the family since then and (2) food costs in general are up.

Yeah, I don’t do the coupons, I buy the good stuff, I meal plan, no juice … and only VERY rarely do we have boxed/packaged snacks (usually just pretzels and crackers). We also made the choice last year to limit dairy so that we could afford Organic, Raw Milk. Fortunately, our Pediatrician confirmed my decision by reminding me that my older kids don’t need more than 8 ounces of milk a day… so they get a half cup in the morning and a half cup in the evening.

It definitely takes planning and spending awareness to stick to a $150 for a family of five …but it is definitely doable. In fact, it has become so much “second nature” for me that I truly don’t understand people who tell me they NEVER meal plan. How can you function like that??? 😉

    Laura Fuentes - June 2, 2013 Reply

    You crack me up Rachel! I used to be able to feed my family for around $100 when I only had one.. And it’s true, groceries have gone up!!! I pay $6-7.50 for a gallon of organic milk where a few yrs back it was $4.75-5.
    What made me bake my own baked items is not just because they are better for us, but because a loaf of my fav org bread was $2.50 now it’s $3.99. A local bakery that grind their own wheat charges $6-7.50 per loaf!! I was like… I CAN MAKE MY OWN!! Even if the bread machine is my assistant often

      Szumini - April 24, 2016 Reply

      Can you share any of your homemade bread recipes?

Christina - June 2, 2013 Reply

My kids are so picky! Lunches are so boring and the same all the time. I wish they were more open to other items

    Laura Fuentes - June 3, 2013 Reply

    Christina, go visit MOMables and sign up for the complimentary newsletter. you can get fresh ideas weekly for free. 🙂

Stephanie @ Spanglish Spoon - June 2, 2013 Reply

Laura, this is the first time I visit your site and I love it! What great ideas you have listed here. My favorite is using a bread machine during the summer. I don’t have one yet, but now I’m considering saving up some money to purchase one.

    Laura Fuentes - June 3, 2013 Reply

    Awww! thank you Stephanie! yes, a good bread machine can completely replace your oven in the summer.

Kristina (The Greening Of Westford) - June 3, 2013 Reply

The Frugalette linked to this post – so glad I came to read it. I do much of the same! Where do you get your bulk beans? I buy my beans (organic) in bulk but always seem to spend more like $2 a pound.

I love that your final tip is to NOT shop with your children! So true! My kids are getting out of school soon and I was dreading this, but luckily my neighbor is in the same boat so we are going to switch off watching each other’s children so we can shop alone!

    Laura Fuentes - June 3, 2013 Reply

    Hi Kristina! You can get bulk beans online. Amazon, azure standard, emergency essentials…. when I say bulk… i mean… i bought 50lbs at a time! 😉

Kathy - June 4, 2013 Reply

Wow, for a family of 4 (two young kids 5,7) I spend $70-100 a month JUST in eggs and milk (depending on the meals)! If I were to buy bread for the month that would cost me about $50. Lol I only buy for 2-3 days at a time otherwise all my food will go to waste because I am NOT creative in the kitchen. Plus with it being summer time we are on the go a lot so BBQ and quick meals (not take out or restaurants, but easy to make) are usually our agenda. Thanks for this post I enjoyed reading it!

    Laura Fuentes - June 5, 2013 Reply

    Hi Kathy! yes, I used to spend a lot on bread, eggs and milk alone. Then I began to limit milk to one glass per day and if they don’t finish it it goes back in the fridge. no waste. the baby still gets 2 glasses but he doesn’t need any more than that. he eats a really good and varied diet. When I shopped 2-3x per week I used to spend a lot more too. Now I plan and go once a week. It makes me get creative and use up what’s in the fridge before it spoils. 🙂 Thank you for stopping by!

Janis - June 9, 2013 Reply

Kudos to you, Laura! Wonderful how you are doing this. I am not one to usually give criticism, so please don’t think of this like that.Just a suggestion.I see that you don’t buy much juice. However, when you do buy Apple Juice, please be aware that just because it comes from the U.S. doesn’t mean it’s OK. Apples are among the top pesticide sprayed fruits, so Organic apple juice would be a better choice. Also do you buy all organic vegetables, especially the corn? I think you’re doing an amazing job! Thank you for sharing this. :)!

    Laura Fuentes - June 10, 2013 Reply

    Thank you Janis!
    The apple juice is not organic but I might buy it once a month or every other month. The reason it’s from the US is because there has been mold found in juices from overseas -even organic juices. criticism not taken at all. thanks for leaving a post! 🙂

Kim White-Davis - June 10, 2013 Reply

In our house we feed a family of 10 people for right around $200 per week using a lot of the same methods. I admit we do couponing, in addition,we eat meatless 3 to 4 nights per week. Even the staunchest carnivores among us go nuts over the black bean burgers, and vegetarian enchilada bake we make. With a large family of picky eaters,lactose intolerance and gluten sensitivities, being creative is a must since eating healthy is our main goal.Your site is a great inspiration when eating the same old recipes just gets plan boring o either cook or eat. Thanks!

    treasa - January 23, 2016 Reply

    I have a family of 8 help I don’t know what I’m doing but I want to start eating healthy and clean but I have so many picky eaters . We do foster care so we have alot of different back grounds and I need to be creative

      Laura Fuentes - January 25, 2016 Reply

      What a great thing that you are doing Treasa, those children are lucky to have you! My biggest piece of advice is to use simple foods and make one meal for everyone. Pickyness diminishes when less options are on the table. good luck!

Melanie - June 10, 2013 Reply

Thanks for the on-line ordering tip! I hadn’t thought of that. Most of the other tips I use as well and rarely spend $100 a week for a family of 4, including a teenage boy so he should count double. I don’t have a bread-machine, but I do have an 11 year old. She measures and mixes and puts the covered dough in the “quiet spot” after breakfast & I do the rest in the afternoon right after picking up my son from school. We grow a garden, even though our “yard” is the length of our house and 3 feet deep (we live on a canal) and we live in a strict community concerning landscape. It is easy to grow some tomatoes, onions, herbs, cukes, and peppers as “decorative” or container food. I never buy juice, but we do have a lemon tree that provides lemons for our water most of the year for free. Thanks for the great site…

    Laura Fuentes - June 10, 2013 Reply

    wow!! I can’t wait to put my daughter to work when she is a little older! thank you for your nice comment Melanie. 🙂

Pam M. - June 11, 2013 Reply

We have a child with a fructose restricted diet (reacts to it kind of like a lactose intolerance)so a lot of these things are a must in our house. This also makes eating out a challenge but it does save us $! No juice (or rarely), very few processed and packaged foods helps A LOT! I too make my own bread, using the machine to make the dough and I finish in my oven. Just a personal preference to the way it turns out. I sometimes make dough ahead, freeze, thaw overnight in the fridge and bake in the a.m. Smells wonderful too. I can control the ingredients (I add flax, whole grains, local honey from my sister in law). In regards to CSA’s some insurance plans will reimburse you for those. I don’t subscribe to a CSA yet but am considering and using my insurance reimbursement for that even though I grow a lot of food over the summer and freeze &/or can. I am a teacher so I have a big garden and I raise chickens for eggs. I don’t know that I save much $ on eggs but I do know they are organic, antibiotic free, free range etc. so they are not the $.98/dz. eggs if you know what I mean. I know I save $ on my herbs and some of the produce that I grow. I mix my own dry whole grain pancake and waffle mixes ahead, store in the fridge or freezer; adding the liquids when I’m ready to make them. I make more than needed and freeze the extras for quick breakfasts etc. I don’t grind my own wheat but I do grind oats in a blender for oat flour which I use in my mixes. I have a sweet potato biscuit recipe that I love, is quick to put together and saves $. Thank you for all of the great ideas!

sam - June 12, 2013 Reply

I’m about 5 months away from becoming at first time mama at 39. I’ve been married for 12 years and am trying to figure out how I’m going to give up my DINK card gracefully and still live well! Love the thorough information and all the comments are inspiring me to challenge myself to being a good mom and wife by helping us stay on budget while I transfer to being a SAHM. Thank you!

TIffany C - June 12, 2013 Reply

What an awesome post. Full of great ideas. God, how can you possibly be that organized with three kids and a hubby? YOU TOTALLY ROCK

lindsey - July 7, 2013 Reply

I found this post Pinterest and I have to say THANK YOU for posting this. I feed my family real foods but I am always feeling overwhelmed with the cost and wondering what I could be doing better. This post helped my realize I am doing everything right and to just keep going and stick with it.

Jen @ Savory Simple - July 9, 2013 Reply

I love this! I’ve been trying to get better about meal planning and budgeting. These tips are exactly what I needed.

    Laura Fuentes - July 10, 2013 Reply

    Let me know if you have questions or I can help in anyway Jen!

Stacey - July 10, 2013 Reply

This is so great, THANK YOU!!

Homemade Whole Wheat English Muffins Recipe - Savory Simple - July 15, 2013 Reply

[…] met this year, Laura from Super Glue Mom, recently published an article describing in detail how she feeds her family of 5 on a weekly budget. Even though I’m only feeding a family of 2 I picked up several very useful tips. In the […]

Lisa Tulak - July 17, 2013 Reply

<3 I am glad to know I already do most of the things you listed. Thanks for some new tips. <3

skullaria - August 5, 2013 Reply

I use pretty much the same strategy but I also use coupons and stockpile. I find a lot of fresh food coupons,but not in the newspapers. Today I had coupons on almond milk, fresh pork, fresh beef, Cacique cheeses, and vidilia onions.

Last night I used leftover venison, pintos, and an onion to makechili. Mexican is wonderful for creating and using leftovers in tasty new ways.

ologsinquito at Organic at Aldi - September 20, 2013 Reply

I do much the same except I have to spend a little more (up to $200 a week) on organic food for a family of four. This is largely because my husband won’t drink water and gets his liquids almost exclusively from milk and juice. He does water down the juice, though. You are correct. Juice is a huge budget buster and totally unnecessary. Fresh fruit is much better for you.

You’re doing a great job.

Barbara - December 1, 2013 Reply

I’ve been a mom for 28 years and have meal planned off and on. You have inspired me! Thank you for the wonderful post. I love your writing style; I’m enjoying your ideas over a cup of coffee. I will be back to read more(with coffee, of course!).

    Laura Fuentes - December 2, 2013 Reply

    Barbara, I am thrilled to have you come and read! Coffee is a necessity! it’s how I get most of my posts done super early in the morning!

Debbie - January 9, 2014 Reply

Here’s a shopping tip you might like. I give my teenage boys part of my grocery list at the store. I have the best price from other ads on the list and they price compare for me and pick up the item if it’s cheaper. I also give my youngest son $1.10 for spending money. Everytime he asks me for something he has to give me a dime and when we get ready to check out, he gets to spend what he has left or pocket the money. I’ll take him wherever he wants in the store to grab his purchase. My older boys each get to pick a good deal they found for the entire family and get a $1 item for themselves.

Kristen - January 19, 2014 Reply

You have really inspired me!

    Sandy - June 14, 2014 Reply

    I find items on sale at the local grocery mkreat are often less expensive then buying in bulk. I also divide and freeze items. Cheese freezes well. I also make english muffin sandwiches and freeze them to use for breakfast. It is much cheaper than stopping for a breakfast sandwich. I also take a thermos of coffee to work and try to pack a lunch. When I’m on the road, I bring a little cooler of beverages to avoid paying $1.50 for a bottle of water.

      Laura Fuentes - June 15, 2014 Reply

      great tips to add Sandy!

Sara - January 20, 2014 Reply

I have started making my own yogurt since my daughter goes through so much of it. I make about a 1/2 gallon every two weeks which costs approximately $4 made from raw organic milk that I get from a farm. In the store, I can easily pay $3 for a quart (half of the amount I make) of organic (non-raw) yogurt. You can make yogurt super easily with any kind of milk. I also belong to a cooperative buying group here in town which allows us to buy in bulk at discounted prices. You can get carried away doing this, but if you plan carefully, it can be a money saver.

    Laura Fuentes - January 20, 2014 Reply

    Great job Sara! you are so lucky you can get raw milk where you are! I bet that yogurt is delicious.

desirae - January 26, 2014 Reply

Your article help me with few more tips on making things from scratch I have two toddlers living at my house now a five adults so I have make things last to feed everyone wish I had you food budget for the week I can only spend 50 to 60 bucks a week on food

    Laura Fuentes - January 27, 2014 Reply

    Then you’ll have to eliminate meats and focus on beans, rice, pasta, legumes.

Jennifer Ayres - February 8, 2014 Reply

What Eco Brand of detergent do you use? Thanks. 🙂

    Laura Fuentes - February 9, 2014 Reply

    Check out the post and click on the linked item.

Heather G - February 25, 2014 Reply

Love this post! I can’t wait to start using these tips with my family. Thank you for your hard work!

Christine - May 12, 2014 Reply

Hi Laura,
How much time do you spend cooking every week? I’ve been doing your Sunday cooking block idea but I can only carve out 2.5 hours, not four. I love the idea of making our breads from scratch but am not sure how to carve out more time to do it. Thanks for the wonderful tips!

    Laura Fuentes - May 13, 2014 Reply

    do what you can Christine. Maybe do bread overnight? MOMables has a great crockpot bread recipe… I suggest you start with a few things each week, freeze, and build your freezer of doughs and pre-baked items. switch up and rotate. I spend about 4hrs on sundays and 1hr per night with dinner and lunch making.

Prin - June 1, 2014 Reply

When do you do your food shopping? I would love to start meal planning as we waste a lot of money eating out because the grocery we buy for the house goes to waste. I work nights and find it hard to cook. If only I could get organized… We are also a family of 5.

    Laura Fuentes - June 2, 2014 Reply

    I go mostly on Sundays. I pick up our vegetable share Weds.

Ella - July 22, 2014 Reply

I really, really appreciate this post!! It’s just me and my boyfriend for now, and I am already too busy with work and life etc. to plan to coupon and stuff. Also, coupon in hardly ever accounts for organic products!!! I live in Maine, and luckily, it is so easy here to buy organic and there is a far stand down the street from my house that is way less expensive than he grocery store. Thank you for your tips and I LOVE MOMables…I’ve really changed up my work lunches lately!

    Laura Fuentes - July 25, 2014 Reply

    Thank you Ella!

Annie - September 7, 2014 Reply

Thank you SO much for this post! I know it is from last year but I just found it through your most recent newsletter (I’m a new subscriber) and how timely it is! We (my husband and I) just sat down to work out a budget and I’m embarrassed to say that for a family of 4, we spend way more than your budget AND we eat outta least twice a week! Yikes! I have been trying to meal plan but only with dinner and find that I end up eating all the left overs during the week for lunch. Your idea to plan all means for the week is amazing. I am excited and looking forward to your meal planner!

The only thing that I do that is of any redeeming quality is that when I make pancakes, I make a big patch and freeze them. Then all I do is toast them for pancake mornings. I also use them with cream cheese or PBJ sandwiches. I would love to start making bread (what kind of bread machine do you have?) but for now, I buy the really $$ organic sprouted whole grain bread frozen. W don’t eat bread a lot but when we do, I toast them a bit, then use as usual. That has saved me from throwing bread out that gets moldy. I also keep baked goods in the fridge, like English muffins and that seems to keep them longer too.

I am excited to try out your tips and see if I can bring my budget down to a more reasonable one. I do buy all organic and real food, so I know they are bound to be a bit more if I’m buying them all at Whole Foods. I used to shop at TJs too, and another local store. Once I started buying certain things in bulk online, I streamlined to just WF and that is probably why my grocery bill looks like another mortgage! Lol!

Thank you again! Would love to know your bread machine and put that on the Christmas list! 🙂


    Laura Fuentes - September 9, 2014 Reply

    Hi Annie! I’m glad this post found you at the right time! You are doing all the right things. I too make pancakes for dinner (or over the weekend) and toast them all week long! Check out this post on how to make 100% whole wheat bread in your bread machine. I love my Zo. It’s definitely Christmas time worthy or you’ll blow your budget. Planning your meals will save you lots of $! keep at it. 🙂 Laura

      Annie - September 9, 2014 Reply

      Thank you so much Laura! I’ll check out the bread post for sure! I am looking forward to going through your site more for more inspirations! Thank you again!

Cari - September 22, 2014 Reply

I LOVE your site! 🙂 I’m thinking about signing up, but right now we’re doing the GAPS diet as a family and I’m about to switch myself to Autoimmune Paleo diet avoiding oxylates (I have arthritis). As we are doing these diets on a temporary basis, I’m thinking I should sign up when we’re finished. We definitely spend more money on food than I’d like to and this post should really help me cut back. 😉 My biggest challenge is that cooking and prepping takes me twice as long as someone without a disability. :-\ But I LOVE all of the detail you give regarding your plan, because I know I’m already spending 1-2 hours each night cooking, and I could try to cook for 4 hours on Saturday and 4 on Sunday to help us get more variety… 😉

    Laura Fuentes - September 22, 2014 Reply

    We al have to start somewhere. take baby steps. try to find shortcuts in ways that you can accommodate for GAPS. MOMables has a grain free meal plan (while not fully GAPS) will be easy to accommodate to your family’s needs when you need it. I’m not going anywhere. Thrilled to have you!

Rupa - September 22, 2014 Reply

Hi, I have just recntly signed up on yoyur website. You really have amazing tips for all Moms specially working Moms like me with 2 young kids and also I have enrolled in some courses. I won’t say I adopted everything good but trying to be a little more organized by using your Weekly Meal Planner.
Thanks for all these ideas and recipes!

    Laura Fuentes - September 22, 2014 Reply

    Rupa, I am thrilled to be able to help you get a little more organized with your meals! Here is to your success in the kitchen. Laura

Cara - January 2, 2015 Reply

Thank you, this was very helpful. I’ve been a wife/step-mother/mother for 4 years now, and I have struggled to find a rhythm. I am a “wing-it but regret it” person. I don’t plan and then I regret it, lol! Thank you this was again, very helpful.

    Laura Fuentes - January 2, 2015 Reply

    I can totally relate with the “wing-it-but-regret-it” Cara! Good luck!

Enid - January 23, 2015 Reply

Came across your blog when searching for meal plans that help me to get back on trying to lose weight but are cost effective and simple. It is just me and my daughter now at home and I try not to spend more than $60-75 a week. I work 6 days a week and am usually exhausted when I come home so I do not want to spend a lot of time cooking. We like simple recipes. Not a fan of seafood! We are big meat eaters, mostly chicken. I have not used dry beans before either. I am just getting started with this and hope to find what works for us. I likes what you said about shopping “the perimeter” of the store! I never thought about that before!

jen donohoe - February 22, 2015 Reply

you lost me at 14 dollar haircut.

    Laura Fuentes - February 23, 2015 Reply

    Sorry but my hair loves the $14 stylist. I used to pay $50 but my hair looked like a lioness.

      Jen - February 23, 2015 Reply

      I’m a turd. I guess I’m jealous that you found such a deal. 🙂 carry on warrior.

Sarah Le Duc Sansbury - March 13, 2015 Reply

I can’t find a sandwich bread recipe that I love. And I have trouble cutting it into thin slices like store bought bread! Suggestions, advice?

    Laura Fuentes - March 16, 2015 Reply

    I use a small countertop folding deli slicer to cut my homemade bread. Even slices every time.

Sarah Le Duc Sansbury - March 13, 2015 Reply

Oh another random question–do you eat cold lunches? My kids can’t heat up theirs at school.

    Laura Fuentes - March 16, 2015 Reply

    Sarah, all we eat is cold lunches unless I warm them up in the morning and send them in a thermos.

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Jessica - April 20, 2015 Reply

What are your favorite reusable containers?

    Laura Fuentes - April 21, 2015 Reply

    Jessica, everything I use can be found here. Our go-to lunch container is the EasyLunchbox. Food storage wise glass. It’s the best long term solution.

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Jinger - July 7, 2015 Reply

Hi Laura. I was happy to come across your site tonight. I have a family of 6 and all 4 of my children are boys so they are always hungry. I follow many of the same strategies as you so I am excited to look through your recipes and get some inspiration. No prepackaged snacks, limit dairy, almost always use dried beans, and realize that a simple dinner is usually the way to go. I love to cook and my boys are usually willing to help out as well. I make my own bread sometimes, but I am definitely thinking of investing in a bread machine. And I loved the idea of turning leftover fruits into popsicles and the veggies into a stir fry. I usually have to visit at least 2 stores to get everything at the price I want. Thanks for the new ideas and I look forward to digging into your site!

Renee - January 22, 2016 Reply

Let’s try $140 for the whole month?

Darcey McGinnis - February 13, 2016 Reply

Thanks for sharing! My husband and I
are thinking about adopting a sibling set of 6 out of foster care. In the thinking process, we have to consider housing, transportation, food budget and all the other ways it would take us to care for these children on our budget. There is an infant 5 months old up to a 8 year old (4 boys and 2 girls). Plus, we have an away college student and an 11 year son who visits every other weekend. My inital budget to feed all 8 of us for $1k a month but your outline here gives me some insight into how I could cut the food budget to at least $700. I love to cook and I am creative in the kitchen so they will never get bored. My issue is I LOVE PUBLIX!!! Those BOGO sales kill my budget. I love the balance meals you’ve suggested and healthy choices. Your blog is definitely a guide in helping us make our decision.

    Laura Fuentes - February 14, 2016 Reply

    What a gift you’ll be to this group! I’d stick to simple recipes, fresh ingredients, and definitely meal plan. Good luck!

Kay - January 23, 2017 Reply

Are there any homeschooling moms on this blog? I have to feed 9 people on $700 a month. Where do you find blocks of cheese? I have failed on bread 20 times. I stopped trying, because it was a waste. Do you have a link for meatless dinners? We usually have meat as our main component. I am stressed out constantly, from fighting this food budget. I need to figure out which fruit/veg can freeze well. I’m too lost for life.

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Cindy - September 10, 2017 Reply

When a whole boneless fully cooked ham is on sale, I take it to the deli dept. and they thin slice it . I then package it in portions we use, and freeze the rest. I get my lunch meat for under 2.00/#.. When I defrost it I put it on one of my food cloths and get the extra water out. I don ‘t know if you can buy an organic ham like that, but if so, for a large family it might work.

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