My House Runs On A $120 Weekly Grocery Budget That Needs To Cover Nearly Every Meal; Here’s Exactly How We Spent It Last Week
Hi! I'm Sydney. I'm a stay-at-home mom of three, and I make homemade meals for my Colorado family every week.
Although my current phase of life is a stay-at-home mom, I've also been a college student mom, and a full-time working mom — and each stage taught me valuable lessons around feeding myself and my family.
One of those lessons has been that meal prep and planning are essential for running a smooth household with three kids under nine. Figuring out all the meals ahead of time allows me to save time and stick to a budget each week. For a long time, that budget was $100 per week — but I've recently had to increase it to $120 due to everything being more expensive these days.
Each weekend — with that budget in mind — I plan all my family's meals for the upcoming week. This includes choosing the recipes I will make, plus the actual shopping. I cook pretty much every meal every day due to a severe peanut allergy in my household. We don't rely on much takeout for this reason.
When planning each week, I start by looking at my local grocery store's weekly sales so I know what items will get me the most bang for my buck. This first step has become more important than ever to my planning and budgeting lately.
With meal planning, upfront preparation is key — but it's also the most challenging thing. Here are a few tips and tricks that I use each week:
4) I buy the cheapest store brand most of the time. Unless it's something that I'm unable to use due to the peanut allergy or an item I absolutely love (or if a different brand is on sale), store brand it is.
5) I ask my kids to help me. Feeding kids is a challenge. They change their minds constantly, and they seemingly get new taste buds every meal. When I ask them to help pick out recipes (usually with them looking at pictures), I find that they are more excited to eat them. I will also let them pick what they want for their lunch, snacks, and fruit and veggies for the week!
6) I shop AT the grocery store, I am not THE grocery store. I don't supply endless options. I'm not going to overbuy produce that will end up going bad in the fridge without being used. I'm not going to be a vending machine for pantry snacks. My kids get to pick what they want their non-recipe veggies, fruits, and snacks to be for the week, and we usually pick two options for each category.
Also, my kids are small! They do not have the same appetites as teenagers or fully-grown adults. I'm aware that my grocery budget will need to increase as they get older.
Lastly, I'm not a chef. I'm a mom who cooks meals for her family. I learn things as I go and pick recipes that seem manageable for me to keep up with — as I also try and be present with my family.
After making my plan for this week, I wanted to get an estimated idea on how much everything cost before I headed to the grocery store. My total sat at $125.41, and if everything went according to plan, we were sitting in a good spot!
Most weeks, I get my groceries delivered to save me time, gas, and impulse buys. (I also opt for delivery because if you've ever taken multiple young kids grocery shopping, you know the struggle!) This week, though, I went to the store myself because I was worried about lots of items being out of stock and my budget flopping.
Also, if I'm being totally honest, our city recently started charging for disposable bags — which you can't opt out of with delivery. So...to the store with my reusable tote bags I went! (No one has ever said I'm not stubborn.)
Everything went according to plan at the grocery store, but I'll admit: It's still always stressful budget-wise. Even though I've planned, prepped, and priced everything out ahead of time, there is always a bit of an unknown on how your total will ring up exactly.
As you continue to build your pantry, it's easier to spend within budget because you'll utilize staples you have already acquired. But for the purpose of this post, several pantry staples (like oats, brown sugar, rice) were included in the $125 I spent. The only staples I did not include were oils and spices.
I also did not include eggs like I normally would because I had recently budgeted five dozen eggs from Costco into my shopping list a few weeks ago. (Read about how I did that here.)
Here was this week's grocery haul:
One last thing: My husband typically comes home for lunch every day, but he doesn't eat breakfast every day. (Listen, everyone has their faults.) As for me, I've never met a breakfast I didn't like.
To help the beginning of the week go a little bit smoother, I made a double batch for easy reheating the next morning.
My daughter was lucky to have celebrations Monday AND Tuesday at preschool — so I could outsource more snacks than usual.
For lunches on Monday, I had every intention of making Easy Toasted Ravioli, but when it came down to it, I only had energy in the tank to pull off regular ol' beef ravioli.
When it comes to my grocery budget, I always try to create a balance between cost efficiency and convenience. That balance looks different every week, but for this week, my cost efficiency included making my own bread.
During the waiting process of the rolls, I got started with making Meatball Subs for dinner.
I also ended up halving this recipe. I used one pound of ground turkey and still ended up with a full pan of meatballs.
Lastly, in terms of budget, instead of buying mozzarella balls, I went with shredded mozzarella because it was on sale. Then I served them up with chips!
I wanted to do something fun for breakfast so I took a splash of heavy whipping cream, a speck of red food coloring, and made pink whipped cream. I pulled out the leftover pancakes and thanked myself for thinking ahead.
For lunch, I boiled some pasta and tossed in some extra sauce and meatballs from dinner last night.
The after-school snack was popcorn.
For dinner, I decided to take a gamble and try Soy Seared Tofu. The last time I tried a tofu recipe for my family, it came back with a critique saying it needed more flavor. This time I decided to do a little marinade ahead of time.
I ended up tossing the broccoli in the pan after I removed the tofu so it could pick up the soy flavors. I added a bit of water and then threw everything together. I made a pot of rice, and dinner was served!
We couldn't have a proper week if we didn't have everyone's favorite (oatmeal!) in the mix.
My son wasn't feeling up to breakfast this morning so he decided he would like to take his oatmeal as lunch instead. We woke up to a snowstorm so the thought of a cozy lunch on a cold day seemed just right. Lunch was leftover pasta and meatballs.
With the end-of-winter storm still blowing sideways, I decided to make Red Beans & Rice for dinner.
By mid-day, I had completed dinner and let it simmer on the stove. As it came time to serve, I mashed up some of the beans and added them back into the Dutch oven to help thicken things.
The beans and flavor of the broth were great. However, the smoked sausage didn't end up being a favorite amongst the majority of the family. The meal was decent, but as my husband said: "Won't be requesting it."
Thursday's breakfast was oatmeal again — with single-digit temps outside, and me asking myself why we ever moved away from Atlanta (a place with no winter) to Colorado. 😅
My daughter's favorite lunch request lately has been grilled cheese. I ended up slicing a couple of the leftover hoagie rolls and using some of the cheddar block I had bought for snacking. I have learned that the grilled cheese needs to be ~just right~. Just a glimpse of gold starting to appear, but a smidge too far and it's a wasted effort.
We spent the afternoon indoors playing with puzzles.
In between puzzle pieces and telling my 2-year-old to "turn it," "match the colors," and "stop taking out all the pieces I put in already," I started to get dinner ready. I love recipes like Creamy Parmesan Italian Sausage Soup for a couple of reasons.
I completed all the steps of the recipe: dicing, browning, simmering — up until the point where you add the dairy. Then I left everything to simmer on the stove until dinnertime.
Friday morning I finished off the rest of our oatmeal, per request.
Once my son got off to school, I made two separate doughs for the day. One for Soft Pretzels and the other for a pizza I was planning to make for dinner.
Since my daughter doesn't have preschool on Fridays and my husband was unable to come home for lunch, I wanted to make sure I got the girls out of the house. We were able to attend a story time put on by our local library!
When we got back home, I *attempted* to shape the pretzels. Some were more successful than others, but I was mostly focused on lunch being ready in a timely manner. After a quick baking soda bath, I coated them with an egg wash and salt. Into the oven they went!
When I say everyone was excited for dinner on Friday, I mean EVERYONE. Our house is full of pickle lovers, and the recipe on the menu was Dill Pickle White Pizza!
Pickle pizza was a hit! I'm especially excited to try this in the summer when I can use freshly grown dill from my garden.
Since I was already cooking up bacon for the pizza Friday night, I decided to cook the rest of the batch and save it for breakfast sandwiches over the weekend.
There's nothing my son loves more than a breakfast sandwich. He would choose to eat one for every meal if he had the option. Therefore, I put my BOGO English muffins to good use with my leftover bacon.
The morning was spent running a few errands, and we had a short window of time between returning home and leaving again to take my son to a birthday party across town. I made a modified version of tuna pepper canapés.
At the beginning of the week, I decided to half the meatball recipe — leaving me with an extra pound of ground turkey. As if it was destined to be all along, we ended up inviting our neighbors over for dinner, and I was able to make a double batch of Lemon Chicken Piccata Meatballs.
The thing I love about meatballs is that you can make a lot of them with pretty little effort. My youngest likes to be in charge of scooping the meatballs onto the pan, which means that we got to spend some time preparing dinner together. Not only does this enable us to spend time together, she gets to learn about cooking, and she was very proud to serve and eat them with our friends.
Everyone ate this meal so well! We even had an extra toddler for dinner, which can be a recipe for disaster when the toddlers all get together. However, this recipe was a pure success.
Sunday morning's breakfast was reheated sandwiches. Super easy!
Then we were off to another birthday party over lunch. The kids hit up the arcade, won enough tickets to hit the prize room, and walked away big winners with a couple of Dum-Dums.
Since everyone had their fill of pizza and birthday cake at lunch, the goal for dinner was to eat up leftovers — even the ones we'd been avoiding — in order to clear out the fridge for a new week of groceries that would be coming in the next day.
And just as one meal plan comes to end, another one begins.
I hope this was helpful! Again, I don't share these plans assuming people will replicate them exactly. Every household is SO different — from palate preferences to cost of living to the amount of time available to cook. Still, I hope this provides some inspiration for new recipes, new planning ideas, or how to work with whatever your budget may be. You can find more of my articles with weeks worth of plans here!
For more, follow me on Instagram at @sydneyinsuburbia. That's where I give step-by-step breakdowns about how I plan my weeks, shop, and cook — hopefully helping you do it, too!
And one last takeaway: Never let anyone make you feel bad for making a budget. People create budgets for all different reasons — necessity, savings, student loans, retirement, investments — and it's something you can feel proud of. You got this!