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What Our $200 per Month Dishes Up!

Recently, I wrote about how I grocery shop and keep our monthly food spending to $200 per month.  (If you’d like to read that post, you can find it HERE!)

A Budget Mom's Trip to the Grocery Store!

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We haven’t always budgeted this way.  In fact, a look back into some of the older posts on this blog will quickly prove that!  But we’ve made major changes this year, and it seems a lot of you are trying to make similar changes in your own homes!  Way to go!  Make no mistake, it is NOT easy and there are some weeks I definitely feel the stretch between shopping days.  It is a fair amount of work to come up with ideas for healthy, inexpensive meals that your family will actually eat.  AND to try and have variety!  You deserve a huge pat on the back just for taking on the challenge.  But as I’ve said SO many times, I really think it is worth it.

One thing I find helpful is to remove some of the pressure I put on myself and allow certain nights to be designated “Scrounge Nights” (as we call them).  That just means mom isn’t responsible for the meal… you eat what you find!  😉

Another thing I do is incorporate “meatless meals” into our weekly menu.  About half of the week’s meals for us are usually meatless or light on meat.  For the other half, I typically stretch one meat purchase into about 3 different meals.  Again, sometimes the all-important element of “variety” is sacrificed when you’re on a tight food budget… but don’t get discouraged!  You can make three delicious and varied meals from one type of meat.  Here’s a great example of that, for weeks when you find roast beef on sale!

Red Pepper Romesco Pasta Bake

Red Pepper “Romesco” Pasta Bake – A great meatless or light-meat option!

Another great meal idea that helps stretch your dollar is to have “Brinner” nights (breakfast for dinner!)  Some weeks I can find great deals on turkey bacon, eggs, or breakfast sausage… so on those weeks I build in a night or two of breakfast for dinner.  We round out the less-than-lean dinner by serving it with a green smoothie.  Yummy AND healthy!

Another thing we do is take full advantage of any and all free food that might become available to us.  On certain days of the week, my husband is able to eat breakfast & lunch at the hospital where he works.  How wonderful!  We also have sweet parents who occasionally invite us over and feed us.  :)  Sometimes we attend office parties where they ask us to take home leftovers, and we NEVER turn that down!  I hope that you are given similar opportunities on occasion because they really do help you stretch that food budget.  It isn’t about being needy… but just about being grateful when blessings like this come your way. :)

I’ve had a number of questions come through asking what exactly we manage to eat on a budget of $200 per month… and at the risk of tooting my own horn, I’d say we eat pretty well, all things considered!  I wish prices were more consistent across the country because I’m sure some of you will read these meal plans and laugh.  (In some cities, a budget this low would buy you nothing but white rice!)   But maybe a few of these weekly meal plans will provide some inspiration, even if the exact figures are a bit different for your family.

I sure do wish we had a discount food store in my town (like Aldi or CashSaver), but since we don’t, I get most of our grocery items at Kroger and Walgreen’s and am able to feed my family for about $50 every 8 days.

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Breakfast around here is usually one of the following:

     –Green Smoothie

     -Oatmeal

     -Eggs & Sausage (for the little one)

     -Cereal

     -Yogurt or Cottage Cheese, & Fruit

Hot Cocoa from My Grandma's Recipe Book

Grandma’s Hot Cocoa is a budget-friendly breakfast treat!

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Lunch is usually:

-Leftovers, Tuna, or PB sandwich (for me)

-Leftovers, meatloaf, cottage cheese, chicken, cooked veggies, bananas, etc  (for the babe)

-Protein shake, V8, fruit, yogurt, string cheese, etc (for Chris’s packed lunch at work)

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Snacks:

-carrot sticks

-PB & crackers

-pretzels

-yogurt

-granola bars

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And for Dinner, here are some of the weekly menus I’ve come up with!   Note that these menus assume you have a few pantry staples at home already.  (Flour, sugar, butter, etc.)

1) For this particular week’s meat, I bought a tray of chicken thighs on sale, turkey bacon on sale, and used a small package of ground beef from the freezer (a treat I don’t usually have just lying around.)

Weekly menu inspiration - Pretty/Hungry Blog - Inexpensive, mostly-healthy, and ALL delicious ideas for when you're on a low food budget

Select recipes available here: 

“Secretly Healthy” Chili

Homemade Pizza

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2) For this particular week, I had purchased yet another tray of chicken thighs, plus some breakfast sausage.

Weekly menu inspiration for Budgeting Families

Select recipes available here:

Potato, Sausage, & Kale Soup

Chicken Pesto Pizza

Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup

Cheesy Pumpkin Pasta (with Chicken)

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3) For this particular week, I was able to find ground turkey and turkey bacon for an extreme discount AND get a package of chicken thighs as well!  (Also, normally “Slime Soup” by itself is not filling enough for dinner, but this was after a weekend of decadence at a family trip.)

Weekly menu inspiration for budgeting families - Pretty/Hungry Blog

Select recipes available here:

“Slime” Soup

Ground Turkey Lasagna

Brown Sugar & Balsamic Glazed Chicken

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As you can plainly see, we don’t end up buying much beef, since I rarely see it go on sale for anything I’m willing to pay.  (Although, occasionally I can find a roast that is well-priced and use that for at least 3 meals that week.)  That’s ok!  We’re fine with saving beef for more “special” occasions.  Another yummy meat option I like to buy (that does go on sale often) is pork shoulder (aka: pork butt.)  It’s very convenient to make in a crock pot, and can be used for casseroles, quesadillas, taco salads, etc.

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The bottom line here is that planning is everything.  If you don’t know what you plan to make that week, then it is very difficult to narrow down your needs and minimize your grocery purchases.  I do realize menu-planning is a major drag sometimes… So all I can offer you is my support and solidarity.  Menu-planning and list-making are pure grunt work, and I complain about it too.  But you can do it!

Best of luck!  And keep your notes, comments, and questions coming!  I love reading them. :)

Carissa

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13 Responses so far.

  1. Great suggestions! I agree that planning ahead is key. I make a soup or stew almost every week in the winter – budget friendly and lots of leftovers!

  2. Rebekah says:

    My go-to cheap dinners are baked potatoes with whatever toppings you like (leftover chili, cheesesteak filler, ends of cheese, etc) and fried rice. You can make a big batch of rice once or twice and then add in whatever veggies are getting a little sad in the crisper. As long as you use enough garlic, you can’t go wrong! It also works with whole grains – quinoa, barley, farro – or vegetables from the freezer.

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