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Healthy, Homecooked Meals – for under $82 a week.

September 21, 2010

That’s our challenge to each other. Sam and I spend a fortune on food. Like, we don’t even want to add it up because it probably equals the budget of a small country.

So the other day we decided to make a drastic change – to spend only $81.66 a week on food. Period. This comes out to just under $350 in a 30 day month.

However, the catch is the majority of it has to be homecooked, healthy, and natural/organic. Because it would be really easy to load up on $81.60 of Velveeta Shells and Cheese and potato chips. We are only shopping at Sprouts, so that helps with the junk food cravings.

I figured we would get to the store, go into food coma mode, and leave with $135 in groceries and give up.

So I sat down and made a meal plan.The picture below was dinner for the week – I didn’t bother writing out lunch or breakfast because Sam isn’t here most of the time and I knew some of those dinners would have leftovers.

I did put items for breakfast and lunch on the grocery list though. Also, things like milk, cheese, bread, eggs – all the staples. Bella’s food too – I make all her meals, and often she can have what we are having before I put a lot of spices or salt in.

Week 1:

Meal Plan –

Sprouts has a double Wednesday deal – you get all last weeks and the current weeks food on sale on Wednesday only. However, we don’t use coupons, so whatever is on sale and in season we buy. That’s it.

We took our store list, and added it all up the best we could to see what an estimate of our bill would be. It came out to around $80 – and I had rounded up on everything and included tax.

We stuck strictly to our list. I panicked at the end – our cart was barely half full and we had only spent 30 minutes in the store. Where was the heaping grocery pile? The exhaustion and screaming child? This wasn’t grocery shopping – it was some kind of food deprivation tactic!

We got everything on the list, and it came out to $75.



Fresh fruit, organic beef and chicken, tons of veggies, cheese, Indian food – breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

For $75.

And I never went back to the store the rest of the week for “touch ups”. You know what I’m talking about. Target is a “touch up” place that ends up costing us a car payment.

Every night we had a homecooked meal. Each one took a prep of 15-20 minutes. Right now we’re grilling up the pizza with topping left from the fajitas and excess veggies not used during the week.

This week? Things are a little trickier because we don’t have an overflow of food from weeks past when we bought way too much. But I’m committed to making this work. I know what it’s going to take, and I am planning right now to go tomorrow and spend under $81.66 with tax.

Wish me luck. I’ll let you know how it goes. I’d love any tips or recipes you have.


  • Jessica Nordstrom

    September 5, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Man I would really love to know how this would work for me and it is just me and my husband and we spend a ton!!!! Gosh good job! I give you props…….

  • Austen Mcgary

    March 17, 2012 at 2:46 am

    Enjoyed every bit of your article post.Truly looking forward to find out more. Really Cool.

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  • Brooke

    September 24, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    Wow – so inspiring. I did a meal plan before I went grocery shopping this last time around too and it makes a huge difference. I’m totally adverse to doing a weekly menu (because I’m wishy-washy and don’t like to be tied down…) but instead I just did a quick list of possible meals we can make out of what we have in the house. Takes so much of the pressure off dinner-time. And we too have eaten yummy meals at home all week. Which, for two people who have gotten to know the pizza guy pretty well, is a major accomplishment!
    And now that I’m thinking about my grocery total for 2 weeks came to $160!

  • s credeur

    September 23, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    We ended our challenge earlier in the week. Ours was $50 for two weeks.
    We did the SNAP challenge earlier in the year. I finally got control of the budget. My problem was going in for a .39 cucumber and coming out with $45 worth of “sales”. I got control of impulse buying. One challenge for me was not to go to the store for a month. I made 3 1/2 weeks and my daughter had a baby and I was FORCED to go. I can’t tell you how many hundreds (maybe even a thousand) of $ we have saved since February. I’ll bookmark you and we’ll keep in touch.

  • Janelle

    September 22, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    This is great! Good for you. We resolve to do this often, but I have so many evening meetings and work commitments that we struggle to plan around…And we definitely aren’t great at avoiding the mini-shops that add up on extras. Our biggest problem is milk – the need for it (and it is great – we go through at least two gallons a week!) doesn’t always line up with the big shop, and it isn’t something you want sitting around…
    Anyhow, you’ve inspired me to try harder.
    Have you thought about getting a chest freezer and buying your meat in bulk from a local farmer? We get organic beef and pork for $2/lb from the farmer down the road, and only have to buy it once/year. We bought one off of Craigslist for around $100 and have probably already paid for it with the savings from the meat!
    Also, we processed/vacuum packed our tomatoes and now have enough to last a year (hopefully) – and if you guys cook anything like we do (which it looks like you might), canned tomatoes make frequent appearances…

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  • Alexia

    September 22, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    Totally random side note: does Bella eat meat yet? I’d like to start Ella on some meat but don’t know where to start. Thanks!

    1. Diana

      September 22, 2010 at 2:04 pm

      Yes, she does. So far she’s had lamb and chicken. With the lamb, I make it with lentils and rosemary and then puree it. I can give you the recipe if you like – it took her a few tries but now she loves it.

      The chicken I made by baking chicken breasts, then cutting and “pureeing” it in the Beaba (food processor) until it was tiny pieces. I knew I had to use it within 3 days, and there was a lot, so I made a stock from water, sweet potatoes, a leek and asparagus, and mixed it with the chicken, put it in cubes to freeze and then a plastic bag. It was great to mix with rice, peas, beans – just about anything.

      I need to start her on beef and fish but I’m a little hesitant with them until I find a good recipe. Fish should be interesting.

  • Alexia

    September 22, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Wow! What a great post! We do the whole weekly menu plan and I’m down to one grocery trip a week and one Target trip a month. But $75 with organic dair, produce and meat?! You’re amazing! I am going to try to stay under $80 next week and see how it goes. Please post the curry recipe and I’ve got a few more coming up that you’ll love.


  • bitsofsplendor

    September 22, 2010 at 11:47 am

    This is a great challenge to undertake. I’ve been wanting to do something similar but never seem to find the time or energy. Looking forward to reading about your experience which will hopefully motivate me.

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  • Not There Yet

    September 22, 2010 at 9:17 am

    Good job – we are in the middle of the same process. Last month I spent $1000 at the grocery. $1000! For two people! OMG is right. This month? Its the 22nd and I am at about $300.. big difference. My trick is to use the recipes with a lesser amount of ingredients, like 5 instead of 15…
    Looks like you have a great meal plan started – but I do have a skillet lasagna that is pretty good and pretty cheap, if you are interested.

    1. Diana

      September 22, 2010 at 9:53 am

      I would love it.

      And yeah, I cringe to think what we have spent on food before this. DH wanted to sit down and add it all up in months past, but I couldn’t. I felt like if we did I would throw up in my mouth a little.

  • Sara

    September 22, 2010 at 9:11 am

    I need to get so super serious about meal planning! Our problem is that my hubs does all the cooking (big problem, right?) and he has trouble remembering that we bought the bacon to go with our breakfast-for-dinner meal, not to make BLTs with! Not that I have a problem with tasty-cakes BLTs, but you get the idea.

    Time to crack down!

    1. Diana

      September 22, 2010 at 9:52 am

      You crack me up. :p Tasty cakes…

  • Erika

    September 22, 2010 at 8:21 am

    Nice work! I spent $40 just yesterday on “touch up” organic fruits and veggies for the week. I’m officially inspired to reign it in.

  • Erika @Namammaste

    September 22, 2010 at 7:34 am

    Hey, we’re doing the same thing! 🙂 I found this awesome farm stand that’s only about a mile away with all local produce and everything’s so fresh and reasonably priced and it’s open until Thanksgiving! I spent about $25 on a week’s worth of produce and then we bought enough meat for at least a month from the local grocery store for $50 and we separated it into two person servings and froze it. We have a ton of rice and pasta and couscous and I plan to stock up at Costco when we run out of that 🙂

    I know you’re as much a planner as I am, so isn’t this fun? I’m thinking about getting into canning now, but we’ll see!

    Also, in case you’re interested, I found (well, not exactly – my friend Becky told me about it) a site that has some good seasonal recipes and other tips for staying natural and saving money: http://www.keeperofthehome.org/

    1. Diana

      September 22, 2010 at 9:51 am

      Canning! How fun – isn’t that just totally something that you want to do in the winter anyway. I want to can something now…

      We need to go to Costco – we have one right next to us but I think we’re both a little intimidated by it. 🙂

  • Stephanie @ Confessions of a Trophy Wife

    September 22, 2010 at 7:26 am

    I’ve found that it really helps to buy what’s on sale that week, stock up on meat when it’s on sale and freeze it, and only shop once a week. Also, I’ve recently been trying to work at least one vegetarian night a week into our menu. It doesn’t happen every week – H is not a fan so I have that to deal with – but when I’m able, meatless meals are healthy and much cheaper!

    1. Diana

      September 22, 2010 at 9:50 am

      They are – vegetarian meals stretch out our budget so much. It saves us $5-10 right there on a meat we would have bought.

  • Jess@Straight Talk

    September 22, 2010 at 7:23 am

    That is very impressive. I think I need to try and do this. The fact that my bank statement pretty much just has my grocery store on it multiple times a week? Pathetic. And also, could be good for helping the pocketbook. I need to hit up Sprouts!

  • Elizabeth

    September 22, 2010 at 7:22 am

    I’m inspired. And your menu looks really good. Could you share your fajitas and indian curry recipes?

    1. Diana

      September 22, 2010 at 9:49 am

      I will! I’m going to post it, and I’ll try to get a few with pics as well.

      1. Elizabeth

        September 23, 2010 at 1:15 pm

        Great! I’m looking forward to it!

  • Krista @ Not Mommy of the Year

    September 22, 2010 at 6:52 am

    WOW. That’s impressive. I need to learn how to do this. I spend way to much on food, and we don’t eat as well as you guys do. We do a lot of Hamburger Helper and chicken nuggets and tater tots. Seriously, write more about this because I need help on the whole feeding my family thing.

  • Allison

    September 22, 2010 at 5:41 am

    Good luck! I was doing this for awhile but fell off the wagon this summer. You’ve inspired me to get back on track.I agree that farmer’s markets are a great way to get fresh organic veggies for less and the harvest is in now! Also – never, ever shop while hungry. Recipe for failure.

  • Daisy

    September 21, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    You’re on the right track by not going for touch ups – every time you go to the grocery store, people tend to spend a little more money than what they went there for. Also, retailmenot.com is great – look up the store and you can print out great coupons for the whole store, or sometimes just a couple of products.
    I find the best way to do it, unfourtunately, is to go to two different stores. I do the cheapest (wal mart around here) for the dried goods, and then I go to a farmers market or something like it for fresh fruit and veggies. You’ll save a TON of money at farmers markets/fruit stands/produce markets.
    Just my experience 🙂

    1. Diana

      September 22, 2010 at 9:48 am

      I never thought about retailmenot for coupons! I’m going to check it out – thank you.

      1. Daisy

        September 22, 2010 at 2:41 pm

        theres a tab at the top of the screen that says grocery coupons. It’s the best!

  • Devan@ Accustomed Choas

    September 21, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    I think it is a wonderful plan! We eat only homecooked here but i go to the grocery store every day. I know we would save more if i didnt but i walk & its good for the kids and i. we stick to a $150/wk budget here for the 5 of us on a gluten free diet.

    Keep us posted & share some recipes 😉

    1. Diana

      September 22, 2010 at 9:47 am

      Gluten free is tough – and somehow stores seem to think if it’s gluten free they need to charge more. Like it’s a specialty item.

  • TheNextMartha

    September 21, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    You are inspiring me. I need to get control of our grocery budget. Way too many “touch ups” which really are “snackathons.”

    1. Diana

      September 22, 2010 at 9:45 am

      Yeah. :/ When we buy “snacks” we spend the entire day eating them. And our regular meals. So bad for the budget and our health. This way, a snack is like a leftover or veggies.

  • Desi

    September 21, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    oooh la la! I’m very impressed. You have proven its possible to eat mostly organic and healthy on a budget.

  • themanager

    September 21, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    wow! this is very impressive! we always have a menu plan and snacks. we are feeding 4 people so it’s a little tricky. but, we eat at home every night with a Chipotle snuck in maybe once a month. it’s just not in our budget to eat out so sticking to our menu is crucial.

    i wish we could shop at a place that offered organic only but since we live in the middle of nowhere, that won’t be happening!

    1. Diana

      September 22, 2010 at 9:44 am

      I heart Chipotle. So very much.

      And I’d say on 50% of our food is organic, the rest of the stuff is local or more natural. We just try to avoid heavily processed foods – but buying all organic would send us into the poorhouse.

      Most of our veggies are, most meat, all dairy products.

  • Alyssa

    September 21, 2010 at 6:08 pm


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