Menu Plan: What Our Family of 4 Eats on $200/mo.
I’ve had this post partially typed up, sitting in my “drafts” folder for several weeks now. I’ll be honest with you, part of me didn’t even feel like posting it. Not because I’m ashamed of what we eat. Not because I think we eat poorly or lack a balanced diet. But because people can be so harsh with their thoughts and comments on posts like this. I just want to say up front that I realize some of you may eat even more healthful than we do. And some of you may not like to eat the same thing for dinner and then lunch the next day. Some of you might only eat all organic. That is all great and wonderful, however this how we’ve chosen to eat. we like it and we think it is providing us a healthy, balanced diet. I really do love when you comment and share your thoughts- even when they don’t agree with mine- but please, do be polite. It’s nicer for everyone involved. Thanks!
After reading my post on 4 Things I Do to Keep Our Grocery Budget at $200/mo. for a Family of Four, quite a few of you asked if I could please post what we eat. I also got quite a few comments like this, “$200 a month w/ coupons, sounds like a lot of packaged foods and/or lots of meatless meals”, “I’m not going to starve my family to save a few bucks” and “I think I’d rather be an inmate than to live at your house…. ‘here kids, is your slice of toilet paper for the day’….’Save some of this pickle slice for tomorrow!!’” (Yup, someone actually left that in the comments!) And so I thought maybe it would be a good idea for me to give you an idea of what we eat on our $200/mo. budget.
A couple of things that will be helpful for you to know up front:
- Our family of four consists of 2 adults with fairly big appetites, a 4 yr. old boy and a 10 mo. old girl. The baby is partially breast fed but is also eating a lot of table food too. I don’t buy baby food but instead make my own or give her what we are eating, mashed up.
- I buy lots of fruits and veggies in bulk from local farmers/orchards in the summer and then freeze or can them. 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 fruits and veggies.
- The other factor is that I have a stockpile. My cupboards are full from previous shopping. Here’s why. When I can get pasta for free with coupons I buy as much as I have coupons for. When I can get flour for really cheap (last year I got about 6 bags for $0.50/bag and put it in the freezer and am just now using the last of it) I buy as much as I think is reasonable. I do this as much as my budget allows, on as many items as I can and as a result save lots of money. So when I go to plan out what we eat, I just try to plan my meals around what I already have in the cupboards. 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. And that is why it might appear just by looking at a couple of week’s worth of my groceries that we don’t eat very well or very balanced.
- I cook almost totally from scratch. That means when I make a cake I rarely use a cake mix. I make my own bread totally from scratch. I rarely use pre-packaged sauces. I make my own cream soups and I even cook up some of my own pinto and great northern beans instead of buying the cans at the store. This is typically less expensive and healthier too.
- 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 rarely need a snack before dinner time. When we do snack I try to keep it mostly healthy by offering fruit, nuts or maybe a homemade granola bar. I do have iced coffee or a homemade latte almost every day… I don’t really consider that a snack, but maybe you do.
This is the typical amount of fruit and yogurt that my son eats at lunch each day. Often he’ll even ask for seconds on top of this.
These menus were from August when I was crazy busy with canning and freezing. I tried to keep things really simple and we had some repeat meals too, which doesn’t typically happen. But I figured it was better than getting take-out. Our breakfasts consist of Homemade Granola or Homemade Grape-nuts, 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.
The lunches you see below for Monday-Friday are just for my son and I. My husband takes sandwiches, fruit, leftovers and the like in his packed lunches and the baby eats whatever is around that she is able to digest.
Alright…without further ado, here’s what we ate!
- Creamy salsa chicken wraps with rice; homemade yogurt; home-canned peaches; frozen blueberries (I freeze my own); grapes
- Homemade Ham Loaf (made with ground turkey and ground pork); herbed cooked potatoes and carrots; homemade applesauce; fresh locally grown peaches
- Leftover creamy salsa chicken wraps; homemade yogurt; grapes; fresh peaches
- Hot Dogs (Oscar Mayer no preservative, no fillers variety) with Nature’s Own hot dog rolls; spinach, mandarin orange, almond and feta cheese salad with homemade dressing; homemade applesauce; fresh locally grown peaches; homemade triple mocha cheesecake
- Meat and Cheese Sandwiches and homemade 100% whole wheat bread; homemade yogurt; fresh locally grown peaches
- Ate dinner out
- Leftover ham loaf; leftover potatoes and carrots; homemade 100% whole wheat bread; homemade yogurt; frozen crushed strawberries (I freeze my own); frozen blueberries (I freeze my own)
- Deep Dish Taco Squares (similar to this recipe); green beans (I freeze my own); fresh locally grown peaches; homemade applesauce; homemade from scratch brownies
- Hot tuna and cheese sandwiches; fresh locally grown peaches; homemade yogurt with homemade granola sprinkled on top
- Free Papa John’s pizza (from their rewards program); lettuce salad with homemade dressing
- Various leftovers including veggies
- Various leftovers; lettuce salad with homemade dressing; fresh locally grown peaches
- Carry-in meal at our church- I took 9×13 dish of peach dessert and enough cabbage salad to feed approx. 20 people
- Leftover pizza; leftover cabbage salad
- Egg in a nest (basically an egg fried in a piece of bread); cheese and crackers; homemade yogurt; strawberries; blueberries; peaches
- Dinner at the in-laws
- Breakfast wraps from freezer; cabbage salad; banana; homemade yogurt
- Zucchini Quiche; fresh locally grown sweet corn; homemade applesauce; locally grown cantaloupe
- Leftover zucchini quiche; cheese sticks; homemade yogurt with granola sprinkled on top; homemade from scratch brownies
- Homemade turkey filling; spinach, almond, mandarin orange and feta cheese salad with homemade dressing; homemade applesauce; ice-cream
- Leftover zucchini quiche; homemade yogurt; banana; frozen peaches; frozen blueberries
- Fresh homemade cream of tomato soup; cheese and crackers; homemade 100% whole wheat bread with apple butter; locally grown cantaloupe; fresh locally grown peaches; homemade cake with homemade frosting
- Meat and Cheese Sandwiches; homemade yogurt; banana/peaches/blueberries
- Leftover turkey filling; spinach, almond, mandarin orange, feta cheese salad with homemade dressing; homemade applesauce; homemade cake topped with crushed strawberries
- Lettuce salad; cheese stick; piece of lunch meat; homemade yogurt; frozen peaches
- Deep Dish Taco Squares (similar to this recipe); lettuce salad with almonds and cheese and homemade dressing; homemade applesauce
This week I also made 2 cheesecakes for a bridal shower that I helped plan.
- Scrambled egg; sausage; homemade baked oatmeal with chocolate chips; bagels; fruit slush; orange juice
- Leftovers; hot peppers with bacon and cream cheese; homemade baked oatmeal; home canned peaches
- Breakfast wraps made with leftover sausage; homemade yogurt sprinkled with homemade granola; peaches/blueberries/strawberries
- (My sis-in-law and her 3 children ate with us) Leftover deep dish taco squares; baked potatoes with sour cream; green beans (I freeze my own); homemade applesauce
- Leftovers; homemade yogurt; strawberries/blueberries
- Dinner out- Date night!!
- Leftovers; homemade yogurt; banana
- Hot homemade tuna salad/egg salad sandwiches; lettuce salad with homemade dressing; homemade applesauce; fresh locally grown peaches; homemade chocolate chip cheesecake
- Leftovers; peanut butter and jelly sandwiches using homemade 100% whole wheat bread; hard boiled eggs; homemade yogurt; fresh locally grown peaches
- Bean and cheese enchiladas (meat free); green beans (I freeze my own); fruit slush
- Egg in a nest ((basically an egg fried in a piece of bread); homemade yogurt sprinkled with homemade granola; banana; frozen crushed strawberries
- Homemade vegetable soup; cheese and crackers; fresh locally grown peaches
- Gone to my parent’s for the weekend and took: 1 gallon orange juice, 2 loaves of homemade French bread; 1 peck of locally grown peaches
So, what do you think? Could you eat like us? Or would you rather be an inmate? (See 2nd paragraph above.)
And one more thing. I’d like to periodically do these “What We Eat” posts. If you have any suggestions on how to make it more helpful or readable please do let me know!
Photo Credit: Shutterstock