$200/Month Menu Plan for Our Family of 5 (Post #1)

Wonder what in the world we eat on a $200 grocery budget? Here’s our frugal menu plan for the last two weeks. It shows exactly what our family of 5 ate!

Wonder what in the world we eat on a $200 grocery budget? Here's our frugal menu plan for the last two weeks. It shows exactly what our family of 5 ate!

I’ve found that a lot of people are really curious to know just what exactly we eat on our $200/mo. grocery budget.  I mean, do we mainly consume rice and beans with the occasional side of chicken?  Or can we actually eat rather normally?  So if you are one of those people that has been skeptical or if you simply want ideas for frugal meals, hopefully this frugal menu plan showing what we ate the last 2 weeks will be helpful!  Maybe you won’t consider our menu plan normal, but I think we eat pretty well and we are happy with our meals.  So that’s good enough for us!  :)

If you are interested in learning more about how we eat and grocery shop on a $200/mo. grocery budget here are a couple of other posts you might enjoy reading too:

Also, before you actually read our menu, here are a couple of things that are helpful to know:

  • Our family of five consists of two adults with fairly big appetites, a 6-year-old boy, a 3 year-old girl and a 13 month-old girl.
  • I buy lots of fruits and veggies in bulk from local farmers/orchards in the summer and then preserve them by canning or freezing.  (Check out my step by step photo canning tutorials here!)  This is not only much cheaper it is also healthier too. But that is why if you look at my Weekly Spending Summaries you won’t always see lots of produce.
  • I have a stockpile- my cupboards are full from previous shopping and here’s why. When I can get pasta for free with coupons, I buy as much as I have coupons for.  If I’m able to get flour for $0.50/bag like I did last fall, I’ll buy half a dozen and put them in the freezer to use as needed.  I do this as much as my budget allows, on as many items as I can and as a result save lots of money. Then when I go to plan menus, I simply plan our meals around what I already have in my cupboards and freezer, as much as possible.  Obviously I still might have to buy a few things at regular price here and there, but by stocking up when the price is at rock bottom I save a lot.
  • We rarely snack.  By eating “heavy” food like granola at breakfast we don’t get hungry until lunch time.  And the same goes for the afternoon.  Our lunches are big enough that we usually are fine until dinner time.  When we do need a snack, I try to keep it mostly healthy by offering fruit, nuts or maybe No Bake Energy Bites.  We don’t always do it perfectly though, and sometimes end up having chips or cookies instead.
  • Our breakfasts consist of Easy Homemade Granola or Baked Oatmeal, the occasional bought cereal that I was able to get for $0.50/box and sometimes some fruit too.  I know that might seem awfully boring to some of you, but we actually all really enjoy it and prefer it over other breakfast food.  I also have a homemade iced coffee, homemade frappe or some other fun beverage every morning.  It’s just one of the little things that I do to add a bit sunshine to my days!

Below you will find our lunches and dinners.  (If we ate something other than our usual breakfast, I’ll note that too.)  Monday through Friday, 3 days a week the lunches are just for the two youngest and I, the other 2 days my husband joins us.  Our son gets lunch at school and 3 days a week my husband takes a packed lunch with him to work.  His lunch typically consists of sandwiches, fruit, homemade yogurt and sometimes random leftovers too.

Our Frugal Menu Plan for Our Family of Five

Healthy Fudge 3 ingredient- a frugal, easy recipe


  •  At my in-laws all day



  • Various Leftovers; Easy Homemade Yogurt; Home Canned Peaches and Frozen Blueberries (I preserved)
  • Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup; Sheetz Philly Cheesesteak; Homemade Applesauce; Homemade Chocolate Brownies
    – A new Sheetz gas station opened up nearby and we got a bunch of coupons for free food items.  One of them was this Philly Cheesesteak that I was planning to send with my husband as part of his lunch.  But he insisted that we all enjoy it, so we did!  (We don’t often get this kind of thing due to our tight budget, so it was kind of a treat.)




  • Various Leftovers; Oranges; Easy 3 Ingredient Healthy Fudge
  • Homemade Chicken and Caramelized Onion Pizza (adapted this recipe and used it to make my crust); Peas; Homemade Applesauce; Ice Cream Bars
    – It was my first time using this crust recipe and I was overall pretty happy with it.  It was easy, fast and good!  And for me, fast is always a big plus when it comes to any recipe.


Cream Cheese Potato Soup with ham- an easy recipe


  • Had Fellowship Meal at our Church—didn’t take anything!
    – I was to help my mother-in-law make a big roaster full of scalloped potatoes and ham, but she insisted on doing it all and letting me have a break.  So sweet of her!
  • Ate with family- took enough hot dogs for everyone and 2 qts. of ice cream


  • Various Leftovers; Easy Homemade Yogurt; Apples
  • Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole; Green Beans; Homemade Shortcake with Frozen Crushed Strawberries (I preserved)
    – I really loved this chicken and rice dish!  So many of these types of casseroles take cream soup, but this was just a great from scratch recipe.  The Parmesan cheese and Ritz cracker topping really make it yummy!




  • Kids: Eggs in a Nest (eggs made in toast); Me: Homemade Breakfast Burrito (from freezer); All: Easy  Homemade Yogurt; Oranges
  • Leftover Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole; Green Beans; Homemade Applesauce; Cheese; Homemade Cake with Ice Cream
    – This was actually a small birthday party for our 1 yr. old and my parents and a good neighbor/friend ate with us.  And yes, I totally served them leftover casserole!  I added fresh Ritz crackers to the top and no one was any wiser.  Not that they would have cared anyway.  That’s the beauty of family and good friends- they don’t care!



  • Home Canned Vegetable Soup; Cheese; Home Canned Peaches and Frozen Blueberries (I preserved)
  • Ate out
    – Ended up getting a free meal because the restaurant we went to was under-staffed and was out of a bunch of things, so they offered to refund us our bill!

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  1. says

    Wow! I’m impressed that you wrote down your meals for the whole month! I’ve had people question what we’re eating on our budget as well, but I think when you have a good stockpile, that really helps! I’m also impressed at all you’ve canned! I’m looking forward to the summer produce and canning again.

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Yeah, it takes a bit to get in the habit, but I’ve had a lot of people ask me what we eat, so figured I’d give it a try. And yes, having a stockpile definitely makes it much easier….it’s one of the biggest ways that we keep our grocery budget so low! And yes, I love canning and can actually go overboard if I don’t watch it. But it’s definitely getting harder to do as I get busier and have more kiddos. :)

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Jann, I have great memories of helping my mom and grandma can and freeze lots of produce. That experience has definitely helped me now that I’m doing it myself.

    • Tyler says

      Is there produce that freezes better than others? For example, I don’t imagine throwing an apple in the freezer would be a good idea.

      • ThriftyFrugalMom says

        Yes, Tyler, you are right, whole apples don’t freeze very well! :) Berries/Cherries are something that freeze really well and they are super easy to freeze too. Just wash them, drain them and once they are dry you can put them in a bag or container and freeze. Peaches can be frozen too, but you’d want to peel them first and then cut them into slices or small pieces. Most people like to first lay them on a cookie sheet to freeze before putting them in a freezer bag because that helps keep them from sticking together. Bananas can be frozen too, although you’ll probably only want to use them in smoothies or baking once they have been frozen. Grapes are a yummy snack frozen too.

        As for veggies, you can freeze lots of veggies but they freeze the best and have the best flavor if you blanch them first. Basically this means that you just slightly cook them and then cool them down quickly. This stops the process of the vegetable maturing or aging, keeping the flavor much more “fresh” tasting. I explain how to do this in more detail in my post on how to freeze green beans. I have frozen peas, cauliflower, broccoli and corn (I cut it off the cob after it’s been cooked). I also have sometimes frozen cooked carrots if I’ve been worried that they’ll go bad on me and then used them in soup.

        Not sure if that totally answers your question or if that is the info you were looking for, but hopefully it gives you a little bit of an idea of what you can freeze and how it works!

  2. says

    I have a family of 5 and would love to be able to get my grocery bill down to $200. I am really going to start checking around our area for local produce when in season and stocking up using coupons again. This is great that you can feed your family for $200 and the foods are healthy. Thank you for sharing your menu.

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Jennifer, thanks for your kind comment! There is no way that I would be able to have this low of a grocery budget if I hadn’t started stockpiling several years ago. It does take time and work, but over time the savings really do add up! If you’ve couponed before, you probably already know about coupon match-up sites. But if not, definitely find a a blog that does coupon match-ups for the stores you shop at. (My favorite is Forthemommas.com) It makes it so much easier! And yes, buying produce in season can be a great way to save. I’m lucky enough to live in Amish country where there are lots of inexpensive produce stands. :)

  3. says

    Wow! Great job! There are only 4 in our family but we are all adults. We try to spend about $300 on all things: food, toiletries, cleaning supplies etc. for the month. I am gluten-free so that has impacted our bottom line a bit. We also can from the garden & do a lot of soups and leftovers. Your post gave me some new ideas. Thanks!

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Nikki, $300 a month is awesome, especially for a gluten free diet! Do you use coupons or is that strictly by being a savvy shopper otherwise? And yes, we love our soups around here, as you probably noticed. 😉

  4. says

    Thank you for the inspiration! I really need to get our grocery budget under control. Food is the only thing we spend a lot of money on. In all other aspects of our life we are very frugal. I will definitely be using some of your tips.

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      We all definitely have our different areas of strength when it comes to saving and spending, Sarah! Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Margaret Derbyshire says

    Your menu was especially inspiring. I’d love if you’d give a tutorial on canning. It seems overwhelming for me to do as I’ve never done it before (Scottish folk don’t seem to can). I am a frugal shopper though and make lots of soups and other sauces from scratch. And oatmeal? That’s a given for us :-).

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Thanks, Margaret, for your kind words! So glad you enjoyed the menu plan. And I appreciate the suggestion for canning tutorials. I always love knowing what my readers would enjoy and find helpful. I have one tutorial that I didn’t get moved over yet from my blog on Parents.com. And I’m hoping to add some more this year as I do my canning and freezing. So stay tuned! :)

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Meaghan, I’m guessing you have older kids than I do, right? Because it happens less and less here, even when I intentionally make extra! But that Creamy Crockpot Mexican Chicken makes a HUGE amount. In fact, most times I just freeze part of it right away for another meal another week.

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      It is, Angie! It’s kind of an unexpected combination of flavors, but is absolutely delicious.

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Yeah, snacking can definitely be a detriment! We actually snack more now than we ever have. My oldest child just didn’t need snacks, but my middle one? Around 4 pm. she often gets really, really irritable and I finally figured out that she just needs a little something to eat (little being key here!) and then she is fine until dinner. About half the week she is fine and the other half she has to have a snack. But trying to keep healthy, inexpensive options available definitely helps!

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Thanks, Christine! Most of the time I enjoy the challenge of making it work. Note that I said “most of the time”! :)

  6. says

    This is inspiring! I definitely need to learn to can. When you stock up on produce in the summer and can it, how much do you spend? Or, how much of your canned items do you use every week–how much did it cost to buy and can those items?
    Oh and the snacking is horrible around here… I have found myself stocking up on chocolate covered raisins, nuts, pretzels, etc and all of these snack foods don’t even satisfy! A meal planning makeover is overdue for me, lol.

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Kim, yes, canning can save a lot of money if you are able to get your produce for a good price. And it is really much easier than many people think. I grew up helping my grandma and mom do it, so that experience has definitely helped me! I’m hoping to do a few tutorials this summer on how to preserve several things like tomatoes, green beans, applesauce etc.

      As for how much I spend? Without going back and doing exact calculations, I’d estimate roughly $300. I preserve a ton of stuff though- last year I did 52 qts. green beans, 42 qts. blueberries, 29 qts. crushed strawberries, 19 qt. tomato juice, 43 qt. peaches, 80 qt. applesauce (yes we eat a lot of it!), 16 qt. vegetable soup (had a bunch left from before), 6 qt. diced tomatoes, 7 qt. corn plus a few other random things. What I do and how much I do varies from year to year depending on prices, my time and how much we used the previous year, how much I have left etc.

      On a typical week I’ll use 1 to 2 qt. green beans, we eat applesauce nearly every day, peaches and blueberries several times a week, vegetable soup about twice a month, and the other things whenever it works. :)

      I try to keep my grocery spending well under $200/mo. the first several months of the year so that I can save the extra to put towards fruits and veggies to preserve.

      Yeah, snacking can quickly get expensive. I know because I used to love my snack foods! But my waistline and budget didn’t appreciate them. 😉 But the switch to not snacking was a gradual process. Baby steps are often the best way to make a change like that.

      • says

        Wow, that is a lot of quarts! So you were able to spend only $300 for almost 300 quarts? That is amazing! I’m going to make it my mission to learn to can this spring so come summer I’ll be ready. Can’t wait to see your tutorials! :)

        • ThriftyFrugalMom says

          Hmmm, yeah, it probably was roughly $1.00 per quart. Some things cost more and some less so it evens out to that, I suppose. And the vegetable soup would have had extra stuff like potatoes, carrots, noodles and beef in it that weren’t included in the cost.

          And if you have space to freeze stuff, that is even easier and healthier too because it’s closer to it’s original fresh state if that makes sense. :)

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      This made me smile….because I don’t usually think of myself as an organized person. But I guess you are right, in some ways I actually am. And so glad to know that the post was inspiring. That is my goal and so those words mean a lot! I realize not everyone is going to have this kind of budget or eat this kind of food, but my hope is that it can still motivate people to think about ways that they can make their own budgets work more efficiently.

  7. says

    It’s incredible how much buying in bulk, on sale, and cooking from scratch saves, isn’t it?

    It isn’t always easy but it sure saves money.

    Thanks for sharing your tips and your menu with us. Love that your mother-in-law gave you a break. So sweet!

    Blessings to you and yours. (Visiting from Cornerstone Confessions)

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      It makes a big difference, especially over a long period of time! And yes, I have a wonderful mother-in-law. I know not everyone can say that, but I love her and wouldn’t trade her for anything! :)

  8. says

    We’ve been stockpiling too. And buying in bulk (25 pounds of pintos is a lot!!!) and cooking from scratch. But I have to admit we’re not down to 200 dollars a month at the Supermarket!

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Helene, 25 lbs. of pintos! Wow! :) I keep thinking of trying to buy beans and oatmeal in 25 lb. bags but so far haven’t bit the bullet. I know it would save us more though. The storage part is my biggest issue at this point. And obviously everyone’s needs and preferences when it comes to food/groceries is different. But you obviously are being thoughtful about your purchases and not just shopping mindlessly- and I think that is what really matters.

      • Becky Wright says

        I’m sure you know about freezing dry goods such as flour, but in case you didn’t think of it, you can also freeze oatmeal. It’s actually a good idea because no matter how clean the processing site is, there are still always a few insect eggs (such as the miller moths) that manage to get through the screening process. By freezing the oatmeal you also kill any eggs that MiGHT be in your oats.

        • ThriftyFrugalMom says

          Thanks for the suggestion, Becky! I do sometimes freeze flour and oatmeal when I get a large quantity just to make sure it doesn’t get buggy on me, but sometimes I don’t have a lot of freezer room to do it. I never thought about it killing eggs though. Good point! I’ve had flour get buggy on me once or twice, but have so far never had an issue with oatmeal, thankfully!

  9. says

    I am marveled by this! We are also a family of five and I am constantly looking for ways to cut down our continually growing food bill! These tips with the meal plan are great! I would love for you to share this on my new link party Making Memories Mondays going on now! :-) I am now following your blog from the Tuesday talk link party and I am looking forward to seeing more great things!

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Glad this could give you inspiration, Cathy! And thanks for letting me know about the link up- I ended up doing it. :)

    • says

      I love your blog and this post, and I am motivated to achieve this for my fam of five! Thank you so much for sharing this on Making Memories Mondays! :-)

  10. says

    Wow..inspiring post!! Pinning this one :)

    Thanks for linking up with us on this week’s Mom 2 Mom Encouragement Party! Hope you join us again soon, Rachael @ Diamonds in the Rough

  11. says

    Our grocery bill is our biggest expense and I’m always trying to get it down. We cook from scratch and try to buy in bulk or when things are on sale. Thanks for all of the inspiration! Also, that Crockpot Mexican Chicken looks delicious and I pinned it so I can try it!


    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Sounds like you are doing some great things to be mindful about how you spend your grocery money. That’s awesome! And the Crockpot Mexican Chicken is such a great, easy dish. I need to note on the recipe though that it makes a large amount! So either cut it in half or be prepared to have enough for several meals. It does freeze pretty well too!

  12. says

    This is so inspiring! My husband and I used to get by on $225 a month but now we’re struggling to stay at $250-$275. He’s a tall guy with a HUGE appetite so even if I make a hearty meal he gets hungry and needs snacks. I need to work on stockpiling- I think that would help us a lot! Thanks for the ideas!

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Yeah, it’s so true that every family has different appetites, needs and wants. And that is perfectly okay! Sounds like your guy probably wouldn’t be crazy about a menu like ours that is heavy on soups. :)

      I’d definitely encourage the stockpiling. It really does end up saving substantially in the long run. When I blogged for Parents.com, one of my readers wrote a post for me about stockpiling that you might enjoy. :)

  13. says

    Wow! I am going to have to do some studying. I am amazed at your spending and your provision of healthy meals for your family. We had a small garden last year, but want to go bigger this year and take advantage of the local farms. Do you have any recommendations on canning and freezing for beginners? (I’m going to search around your site too!)

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Stephanie, sometimes I wish I had room for a garden and then other times when I think of all the work, well, not so much! :) I’m more of an indoor girl, so I’m not sure how a garden and I would get along in all reality. :) I’m hoping to do some canning/freezing tutorials this summer as I do my own stuff, but other than that, I’d suggest maybe checking out the Ball website. Pinterest might be another good spot to search if you have a specific fruit/veggie your are wanting to know how to do. Hope that helps!

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Gail, baking from scratch is such a great way to save. And it is so much healthier too so I believe in the long run it is saving you even more. And I love couponing too. I’ve been amazed at all the different things I’ve gotten for very inexpensively thanks to those little slips of paper!

  14. says

    How do you freeze your fresh produce?? We are a family of six and with all our weekly shopping including soaps and toiletries we spend about $300 a week. Some weeks as much at $500. Last week I was really frugal and only spent $200. That is something I really need to work on. But my stockpile has gotten eaten up and I have not done much couponing in forever. It takes so much time and with four kids (three of which I homeschool) plus I work from home and blog. Couponing was the extra that had to go. Oh yeah and I hate to cook so its rare I make something from scratch.

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Sheena, I’m hoping to do some tutorials this year as I do my canning and freezing. But basically, you have to prep your veggies and then cook them just until they boil. As soon as they start to boil, you drain the boiling water and put them in cold water. This is called blanching and using a blancher like this makes it easy. Then you strain them really well, try to get them relatively dry and then put them in whatever container you want to freeze them in.

      And I hear you about the couponing! Honestly, I have no idea what we’d spend if I didn’t coupon because it truly does save us so much. But I don’t blame you at all for letting it go. There are seasons for everything and we all have to know what is the important thing. You sound like you have your hands full without couponing!

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      So glad it gave you some inspiration! Yes, canning is a bit of work but can save money, that’s for sure!

  15. says

    Impressive! I’ve always found that if you try to stay organized and plan meals out you end up saving money. I wish my family could do better with our shopping, although I know compared with a lot of my friends we do pretty good.
    Thank you for the tips, especially the freezing of flour, I didn’t know you could do that!

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Sure thing, Christina! Another thing you might not know that you can freeze is butter. I love stocking up when it is on sale and then using it as needed.

      Yes, meal planning is a great way to save money, but would you believe that I stink at it? I know, I know. I usually have sort of an idea of what I plan to have the night ahead, but that’s about the best I do. I’ve tried numerous times to do weekly menu plans, but somehow it just doesn’t work too well for me.

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Thanks, Leesha! And really, I’d say $200 a mo. for 2 adults is doing quite well. But of course, if you want a challenge….. :) I definitely don’t think everyone needs to have a $200 grocery budget to be frugal though. We all have different giftings, needs and preferences and so budgets are going to look different for everyone.

  16. says

    What fabulous and really helpful tips.

    I need to bake more bread from scratch. It really does save money… especially if you are getting flour at a discounted price.

    Thanks for sharing and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop.

    Wishing you a lovely day.

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      It does, and fortunately for me, I love working with dough. There’s just something therapeutic about it. But then of course, it takes time too and sometimes the time factor can outweigh the frugal factor, you know?

      Thanks for hosting the linkup!

  17. says

    Popping over from Inspire Me Monday =) Had to read! I spend $200+ a month for just two adults. Then I was sad to learn I had to cook from scratch 😉 But some great ideas though. I’m going to have to try the whole all day at inlaws house to save on having to cook 😉 Be sure to share your recipes, crafts, upcycles & DIYs at Two Uses Tuesday (Mon 11pm EST to Fri 11pm EST) over at Sarah Celebrates if you don’t already!

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Thanks for the laughs, Sarah! :) Yeah, you are definitely going to find it harder to save if you don’t cook from scratch. And days at the in-law’s are great moneysavers!

  18. says

    These are so great! I’m always looking for ways to keep our budget down…it’s amazing how quickly that grocery bill can dent the budget if you aren’t super mindful! I will definitely be pinning this! Glad to have found this! :)

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Thanks, Summer! And yes, groceries seem to one of the biggest expenses, and thing is, you obviously need them. :) Thanks for pinning!

  19. says

    We also have the similar budget. I think that most important thing is menu planning – since I started to plan my meals I am spending less money, and our meals are more diverse than before.

  20. says

    Thanks for jumping in on Tuesday Talk! You’re meal is inspirational! Remember to grab our button next week at the next link up! xoxo-Mandy from Almond Place

  21. says

    This is great! We have a family of 4… 2 adults and 2 teenage boys. I am always looking for recipes/ideas to cut our grocery bill. Thanks for sharing.

  22. Cydnee says

    I needed you when I had 5 in the house to feed! Great ideas and suggestions! Thank you for joining us at #purebloglove. We enjoying having you every Thursday at 8PM, EST through Sunday night. ~Cydnee

  23. says

    Congratulations! This post is featured over at Diana Rambles this week and has been pinned in the Featured at Diana Rambles board at Pinterest, Tweeted, Stumbled, and Shared on G+. Please grab a featured button off my button page or via the post guidelines graphic. Thanks for sharing this awesome idea!

  24. BobbyAnn says

    I like your list, but am confused how it constitutes an entire month – did you eat at your in-laws twice this particular month and got to church socials twice? Did you repeat the menu for the second four weeks of the month? I only see two weeks worth and I know your certainly couldn’t have received a comped tab at a restaurant twice. heehee At least I hope not.. What am I reading wrong?

    I agree, buying in bulk and cooking entirely from scratch saves so much money. I never started out cooking from scratch for that reason, I did it for health reasons – but we were raised on fresh meats, fruits and veggies – no sodas, chips or cookies, and it just followed through with out family of 7 [now down to three as they have grown and gone to college, etc]

    Another thing I knew to be fact was making our childrens’ lunches. Not only does it save a great deal of money I am assured they will eat what we provide because they like what they are given and it isn’t always the case with school without are low on nutritional value and content, compared to what I can pack for them to take. Although I image a free lunch provided by the school would save a ton on a budget, especially when all three of your kids are in school.

    We only use coupons for things like toilet paper and paper towel, with splurges for fancy shampoos and body washes for the kids – but since we shop at ALDI, which does’t take coupons, we don’t. And really don’t need to because most of what I buy is fresh, not prepackaged or processed, which I find most of what coupons are for – and you have to spend a lot [buy 2/get .50 cents off for the large size for example]. I guess if I bought that stuff it would be worth it but I have the luxury of time to cook and prepare, freeze, premake etc our breakfasts, lunches and dinners.

    That’s the thing – it’s simpler to keep to a budget when one parent stays home because there is time for all the prep and storing of food. Not so for the two income families that want to spend their free time with their families [very understandable] and thus resort to processed, prepackaged stuff to help get dinner on the table faster. I don’t blame them, one bit – I admire them thinking of the dedication they put in for their families working AND taking care of hearth and home.

    I do like the list, and think you have some neat ideas for people who didn’t’ already realize some of these tips, as I do – although I have to admit free meals was never part of any budget plan – going to family, our church or getting a free meal at a restaurant. We always take food to my inlaws, tithe at the dinners at our church [not really an expense in my mind, but dinner still costs so to speak – and being a former server, although we never go out to eat – had I been in that situation I would have excused our family and found someplace else to eat. I never expected to eat for free when we went out. As I said – we don’t eat out now, at all…but that will always be my ryle.]

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      BobbyAnn, sorry for the confusion! I state at the beginning of the post that this is just 2 weeks worth of meals- exactly what we ate for those 2 weeks. Then if you look at the top of my blog, there is a link that says Frugal Living. If you hover over that, you’ll see a drop down menu that says Menu Plans and if you click that, you’ll see 2 more of these posts. Each post has just 2 weeks worth of meals mostly because waiting to do 4 weeks at a time seemed like it would make the posts WAY too long! Hope that helps make sense of it and I understand why it is a bit confusing.

      We actually don’t do the free school lunch because of the budget saving aspect, but instead because the school our son goes to is really small and the lunches they offer are actually pretty nutritious. Also, he’d be the only kid that would take a packed lunch if we did that and somehow that didn’t seem like a wise thing to do. (He goes to a small private school that is just starting out and there are only about 20 students in Preschool to 1st grade.)

      Also, I know that people think that coupons are just for pre-packaged or processed things, but honestly, I buy very little of that with my couponing. Like you said, you can save quite a bit by using coupons on personal care and household items. And I save a lot on things all-natural ice cream, frozen (and even sometimes fresh!) veggies, nuts, cheese, baking supplies etc. with my couponing. We live in an area where several grocery stores still double coupons, so that definitely helps a lot!

      And if it bothers you that we had “free” meals and only budget $200/mo., well, just for sake of that, just bump the number up to $225/mo. :) The thing is, most times I do take some sort of food to my in-laws or church dinners. It just so happened that these times I did not. On the other hand, there are plenty of times when we have guests for lunch or dinner and so that comes out of our budget too. So while this week might look like we got a lot “free”, there are other weeks when we do extra. Does that make sense? Oh and the restaurant situation was an odd one. It was actually a buffet (so no server involved) and they were out of a lot of the food that they were supposed to have on the buffet, the place was pretty trashed too. Apparently they DM hadn’t staffed enough people, they had a big bus load come by in the afternoon, and some of the employees were just in a bad mood because of it. The manager realized that the situation was not what is should be and actually offered us the refund. We apparently were to have been told when we arrived that things were in this state, but somehow the cashier failed to do so. I don’t like to take advantage of anyone and wouldn’t typically do what we did that night either, but in this situation it seemed like the right thing to do. Plus, the manager was pretty insistent.

      Hope that clears things up for you! :)

  25. BobbyAnn says

    *PS that should have read “when all three of your children reach school age. I realize you have two at home.

  26. says

    Wow…some great budgeting and lovely recipes. I was surprised your son gets lunch at school…it is too expensive in our town and unhealthy. Perhaps you are luckier. It is a rare treat that my daughter gets lunch at school…I like to make it myself and at least I know what is in it. I save money to boot.

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Betsy, yes, we have a somewhat unique situation with the school lunch thing. Our son goes to a really small private school and the lunches are actually no extra cost. They are typically fairly nutritious as well. Once in a while I do pack him a lunch just because he thinks it is fun, but that is pretty rare. If we had to pay extra, I would definitely be packing them all the time! :)

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Yes, saving money on food is awesome, but even more so when you can do it and eat relatively healthy, right? I love being able to combine the two.

  27. says

    Wow! $200/month for a family of 5 – that’s awesome. I’ve never bothered with couponing and stockpiling but I’ll have to look into it. I’m sure we could trim our budget down. I’m going to start meal planning this Fall too. It’s nice that you have family close by to feed you! What a blessing.

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      If you can at all find the time, Angela, using coupons and stockpiling is great way to save significantly! I actually am doing a series on how I do our $200 grocery budget that you might find helpful. I kind of took a little break from doing it though and need to finish it, but I think you’ll still find the posts that I’ve done so far helpful for getting started!

      Meal planning is a huge help too! Do you plan to do a week at a time or longer? I always find it so interesting to see how different people do it.

      And yes, having my husband’s family 30 minutes away is nice. Not sure we’ll always have it, but we’ll enjoy it while we can!

  28. KimW says

    I ran across your website while searching for a homemade granola recipe… Love all your recipes and ideas! I am having trouble finding the granola recipe now! I only made a half batch to see if my babes would like it and now they are demanding more! HELP!

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Hi, Kim! So sorry about that. I used to blog for Parents.com and the recipe for my granola was on my old blog there. They recently shut down all of their old blogs and as a result, that recipe disappeared too. I’m hoping to get it posted here soon, because I’ve had several other people looking for it as well.

      So glad your babies loved it…that’s always fun to hear! I’ll email you the recipe so that you can go ahead and keep them happy, instead of needing to wait until I get the recipe posted again.

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      I do not! it’s a great idea though and I’m thinking of offering a menu plan that includes a grocery list for a small cost in the future. So, stay tuned! :)


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