How I Spent $19.67 to Feed a Family of Four for a Week

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Saving money on groceries has always been a big deal to us. If you’ve read some of my earlier posts, you know we typically spend between $75-$100 on food every week. I’ve been working on ways to cut that down even further because….

DUN! DUN! DUN……

I QUIT MY JOB!!

Effective as of earlier today, I am on my way out of the “corporate” world and my last day will be April 15th. If you want to know more about that, you can read how the cat made me do it, but for now – back to the grocery challenge:

Many of my fellow bloggers give great advice on how to go a month without spending a dime but I’ll be honest – that doesn’t work for me.

A “no spend” challenge can definitely be a great way to save money and get back on track financially, but as I always say, creating a budget is a lot like dieting — I don’t do what I can’t maintain.

So this week, in celebration of my new career pathway as a blog mentor (woot woot!), I decided to see if we could spend $20 or less on food for the week with no prep work done beforehand (i.e. stocking up on essentials).

How to Save Money on Groceries

how to save money on groceries

Full disclosure: I also forgot this past weekend was Easter and therefore our weekly shopping trip to Aldi – usually done on Sundays – wasn’t an option. I hate shopping anywhere but Aldi because of how much more I spend elsewhere. All the more reason to be extra thrifty this week!

Start with Your Pantry

To begin, I gathered up all of our dry goods. I work best with visuals, so I needed everything in one spot to begin my assessment.

How I Spent $19.67 to Feed a Family of Four for A Week

Oh and let’s not forget our mass quantities of quinoa that we seem to always have on hand…

How I Spent $19.67 to Feed a Family of Four for A Week
We got a really great deal on it from Amazon!

After I took a look at what we had with the dry goods, I evaluated our fridge and freezer section. We didn’t have much to work with there, beyond a bit of produce, some cheese, and some frozen chicken – still better than nothing but it certainly wasn’t leading us down the road to a gourmet dinner.

If you make the conscious effort to evaluate what’s already on hand or in your freezer, it can make a major difference to what you’re spending for the week. It can be easy to overlook items that have been hanging out for over a month, so it’s important that you take the time to take inventory and see what you can put to use.

Brainstorm Your Meal Ideas

Once I  had an idea as to what we already had to work with, I grabbed my laminated weekly notes list and wrote out meal ideas on the back.

Even if you think up a meal that then won’t necessarily work for that week, go ahead and write it out. Let the meal ideas flow and then consider what makes sense for the week, and what you’d need to buy.

Everything we needed and already had was written in blue and anything we’d need to buy was written in green:

How I Spent $19.67 to Feed a Family of Four for A Week

As you can see, I started to write “garlic bread” – because what’s a pasta dinner without garlic bread – but we could make do with regular bread and I didn’t want to chance going over that $20 limit!

Include the children in your meal planning

Now since we do have two picky…err…SELECTIVE toddlers, we do have certain things each week that we HAVE to buy lest we incur the wrath that is our children.

Call them spoiled if you’d like, but my daughter’s screech makes the dog run for cover.

Including children in meal planning not only helps you consider what they’ll enjoy, but also allows them some “ownership” in what they’re eating. I’m by no means an expert on picky eaters, but I do notice that when I give my children options, they’re less likely to fight me at dinnertime.

Our final grocery list looked like this:

How I Spent $19.67 to Feed a Family of Four for A Week

I knew we’d be cutting it close cost-wise so I ended up eliminating the coffee from the list. Luckily we already have some amazing mango iced tea on hand to keep me from caffeine-withdrawal.

Stack Your Meal Plan

When you’re thinking about how to create your meal plan, try to follow the “cook once, eat twice” mentality – if you’re planning a dish with chicken in it, you might as well cook up extra chicken and use it in another meal later in the week. Or if you’re planning to use quinoa for dinner, cook some extra to have in oatmeal jars for the next morning (always a great and easy breakfast idea!)

Our final meal plan for the week came to be the following, with dinner’s leftovers always going towards the next day’s lunches:

Breakfast for the week: Eggies with green pepper, tomato, and feta and quinoa jars

Sunday – Dinner: Korma (delicious Indian dish, I highly recommend it!)

Monday – Dinner: Tortilla pizza and couscous

Tuesday – Dinner: Stirfry

Wednesday – Dinner: Lentil soup

Thursday – Dinner: Pasta with tomatoes and homemade cream sauce

Friday – Dinner: Chicken, potatoes, and green beans

Saturday – Breakfast: Pancakes and smoothies

Lunch: Tuna and spinach salads (Mac n Cheese for the kids)

Dinner: Leftovers

It’s not the healthiest meal plan I’ve ever made, nor the most appetizing, but our grocery bill came to a whopping $19.67! Which would have been even less had I remembered Aldi would be closed on Easter Sunday…grumble grumble…

What’s the least amount of money you’ve ever spent on groceries in a week?

Do you think you could do a NO spend challenge?

This Post Has 22 Comments

  1. Thanks for linking to my post! This is seriously inspiring! I was recently challenged to feed a family of 4 on $30 for just TWO days and I was sweating….

    1. You’re welcome! And I remember reading that post of yours – I think it’d be a LOT harder to do so for a family that wasn’t my own and that I didn’t already have staples for. Like I said in my post, we usually average between $15-$30/day. It helps to buy a lot of the dry goods (like quinoa!) online and then pretty much everything else comes from Aldi.

  2. Congrats on leaving your job, that’s so exciting! My husband and are I spending April doing a $20 a week food budget, so I definitely can complain since it’s doable for a family of four! I think if I did better at taking into account everything we have in stock and making a plan, our budget could probably stay as low as $20 a week. This was great timing for me to find this post, I feel much more confident in our food challenge this month!

    1. Thank you!! Like almost anything, having a plan in hand will make all the difference in your $20/week budgeting adventure! Good luck, be sure to let me know how it goes 🙂

  3. This is awesome. I need to get organized and make a meal plan. Since I’ve been laid off work, we are really cutting back.

    1. Thank you! Being organized overall can go such a long way in living a frugal life, but starting with a meal plan each week is definitely a great way to cut back!

  4. Great information on the savings and inspiration on the job front!

    1. Thank you, Pamela!!

    1. Thank you! Dieting and budgeting are both tough at times, but they make all the difference in bettering our lives.

  5. This is so great. Even if you can’t do a full No Spend Challenge, saving money by creating this cheap of a meal plan is a great way to throw some extra toward that debt. Nicely done!

    1. Thanks, Cassie! I know the No Spend Challenge works great for some, I hope those that are interested click over to your site to learn more <3

  6. wow I think you might be a magician, I am so impressed!

    1. Haha, not quite! Just crazy frugal sometimes 😉

  7. I like the idea of pulling out all the dry goods and pantry items plus inventory of freezer to make meal plans. I feel overwhelmed when the cupboard is too full. I know that might sound weird, but I know there are things in there that need to be used and hate to add more to it creating an overflow. We have tried to keep our costs down and find it hard to spend less than $100 and there are only two of us! We are making progress, however, and that makes me happy.

  8. i am so impressed with your thriftiness. So, what was for luncH?

  9. Wow, you are a Super Mom! I so wish that I could do this. I have a finicky eating child/teen. Last week I made her figure out our costs when we went to the grocery store. We couldn’t spend over $50. She was amazed at how expensive everything was. A good lesson for kids!

  10. It doesn’t get any better than Aldi’s. My girlfriend finally got me to start shopping there, good lord how do these big grocery store chain survive?

    1. Right?? There are a few (very few) things that we can’t always get at Aldi but in general we never shop anywhere else. We were out of town last weekend and seriously stopped at an Aldi we saw on our travels – picked up HUGE Crayola art sets for only $2 and knock-off Lara Bars for $.17 each. Sooo good!!

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