Hi guys! As part of the launch of Fat Loss on a Budget I want to walk you through what my own grocery shopping and meal prep looks like for my family. Preparation is everything when it comes to optimizing your nutrition on a budget. Here’s what my weekend planning looked like last week:
Saturday Morning Prep
I wake up, pour some coffee, and gaze at my yarn. I really want to have a knitting and Hulu marathon instead of planning my shopping list. However, when Monday rolls around, I know that I’ll be way less stressed out if everything is in place. So I grudgingly get going and open up the grocery ads – I usually have print ads as well as access to digital ads on my computer.
I then peek into my chest freezer to see how much meat and frozen veggies I still have on hand. My prepared freezer meals are down to nothing so this week I have to begin stocking up again here and there and try to make a few double batches of recipes to have on hand for busy days.
Score! I have a ridiculous amount of chicken that I nabbed for only $1.88 per pound. I also have at least 3 pounds of ground beef, wrapped into 1 pound packages. Unless we can find great sales on beef, we buy it in bulk at Costco and then divvy it up at home. When I say “we”, I mean my husband, because I always end up asking him to do it. THANKS BABEH.
Back to the ads. I have some familiar favorite meals that I can make based on what I have on hand. I compare prices of fruit between Aldi and my local grocery store, Hy-Vee. We have 2 other major supermarkets but my time is severely crunched this week, so I’m going to have to make it work going to only these stores. It’ll be fine.
After browsing recipes that I have on hand or online from favorite sites and thinking of the recipes that best match what I already have or can get for a low cost, I finally write my grocery shopping list and plan my menu for the week. You’ll see that in some cases, I’m making extra batches to have more meals. This lets me save time in the long run and also save money so that no ingredients go to waste.
The cost per meal isn’t what I actually have to spend each week. This is important to consider. I’ve estimated the cost of ingredients to give you a ballpark idea of what it costs to make a meal if you shop strategically. Your total bill at the store will vary depending on what you already have on hand as well as how you and your family eat. Because I buy food when it hits very low prices, my costs are often even lower than those listed here because I nab ingredients when they’re at a deep discount. You can learn to do this too in my book. Ready for some meal ideas? Here we go!
Nom nom nom.
- Monday: Egg white/whole egg scramble with scraps of garden veggies I have on hand, a sprinkle of reduced fat cheese. Fruit on the side. Sometimes made with pizza sauce because pizza, or salsa.
Total cost per serving: less than a dollar.
- Tuesday: Protein pumpkin pancakes for me. Greek yogurt with cereal or oatmeal for the kids.
Total cost per serving: around 40 cents.
- Wednesday : Overnight protein oats: Dashing Dish has a zillion variations. Usually the recipe is too filling to eat at once, so I save some for a snack. Here’s one I’m going to try this week: https://dashingdish.com/recipe/brownie-batter-overnight-protein-oatmeal/
Total cost per serving: $2.54
- Thursday: Old fashioned oats with 2 egg whites stirred in as they just finish cooking – you can’t even taste them and it makes them creamy. I like to sprinkle in blueberries, a half banana, and sometimes just a tablespoon of granola for crunch.
Total cost per serving: 82 cents.
- Friday: Egg fried in pam with turkey sausage on a Thomas High Fiber English muffin and slice of Sargento ultra-thin cheese.
Total cost per serving: $1.17
- Saturday: Steel cut oatmeal for family – made with apples, a bit of brown sugar, and for me, scrambled eggs with just a little oatmeal.
Total cost for serving the family: $2.38
- Sunday: Family fun breakfast: I double this recipe because I have hungry boys. This classic pancake recipe is still our go to. I might add an apple topping if we have extra fruit. Serving with bacon.
Total cost for a doubled recipe of pancakes and pound of bacon: $6.00
My lunches aren’t all that exciting. I don’t take time during the day to do much cooking. If I don’t have fun leftovers to munch, I’ll have my go-to “cheaper than Chipotle” salsa chicken to use for my own salad bowls. They’re just a combo of spinach or mixed greens, chicken, and black beans mixed with a sprinkle of cheese and extra salsa. Sometimes I dice some onion on top too.
My kids need lunches too – they are way less adventurous than all the people pinning lunch ideas for kids seem to think. It’s typically homemade “lunchables”, turkey and cheese sandwiches, or PB&J with sides of yogurt, fruit, and whatever other random thing we might have sitting around that they’ll eat. Their drink is always water.
My husband just scavenges for leftovers or eats what I’m eating. Heh!
Total cost per lunches: Hard to say. The kids are probably less than $1 each per week day for lunch. My cost per meal is probably $1-$2 considering I’m using leftovers from other meals. Weekend lunches are usually leftovers or frozen. Costco tilapia/chicken is an emergency backup. I’ll estimate around $30 per week on lunches to feed everyone.
- Saturday: Cincinnati Chili – 3 batches so that we can have 2 in the freezer to just add spaghetti to later. My recipe adaptation is from Cooking Light.
Total cost per single recipe for 6 servings: $7.73
- Sunday: Crockpot salsa chicken – great recipe from the Eating on a Dime blog. I’ll do a double batch so that I have chicken to make “Chipotle Bowls” out of for several days. Serving over rice for the kids, over spinach for me. Adding in a bit of cheese.
Total cost for 1 batch using a package of chicken: $5.32
- Monday: Pork steaks grilled with a spice rub, butternut squash, and sauteed apples. I’m doing these because pork steak is only $1.99 per pound at the grocery store this week. Apples and squash are cheap right now too. Yay, fall!
Total cost for feeding 2 adults and 3 boys (1.5 lbs meat): $7.00
- Tuesday: Crockpot White Chicken Chili from New Leaf Wellness. I’ll make enough for 2 meals if possible so i don’t waste the other half bag of corn.
Total cost for 1 recipe: $4.80
- Wednesday: Fish Cakes from Bon Appetit. Hopefully my kids won’t hate this one. A friend said her kid loved it. Eat it up, punks! I’m subbing in tilapia because we have some frozen that we need to use. I’ll serve some frozen veggies on the side.
Total cost of cakes and veggies: $8.67
- Thursday: Leftover salsa chicken made into high protein quesadillas with Flatout Protein wraps that I have on hand and reduced fat cheese leftover from chili recipe. Spinach salad will by my side with whatever fruit I have sitting around and homemade balsamic vinaigrette.
Total cost for salad plus 5 quesadillas not including chicken because I already accounted for it: $6.53
- Friday: Random leftovers night. Occasionally popcorn for dinner night or pizza night. Likely there will be some leftover chili of some sort. Friday night is “I will die if I have to cook dinner” night because we’re all usually burned out by then and need a break.
- Saturday: Grilled chicken thighs or drumsticks that were spice rubbed. I chose these because bone-in thighs and drumsticks are on sale at the store for 99 cents per pound. Also, my 8 year old loves them. I’ll serve them with whatever frozen veggies I find on sale if I didn’t already have a bag of frozen asparagus. I’ll also make homemade bread for little money and just a little bit more time because I have a bread machine.
Total cost of meal for 5: $3.61
- Sunday: Turkey tacos. I’ll cook 3 batches of lean ground turkey with homemade taco seasoning . I’ll stash 2 extra batches into the freezer for busy days. For some bizarre reason I have 3 packages of flour tortillas sitting in my pantry. It’s a taco conspiracy, but I’ll go with it because tacos are freaking good. We’ll cut up the last of the garden tomatoes if we still have any, use up bits of extra greens that my 10 year old will claim ruin his tacos, and some cheese to round out Taco Sunday.
Total price for a pound of meat plus tortillas, salsa and cheese: $5.94
Total dollars estimated on dinners for the week for a family of 5: $49.60
Snacks and treats:
Photo credit: Christopher Cornelius
Typically I make a homemade dessert once or twice per week. I try to use low cost things that I have on hand, often using up fruit that may go bad (hello, banana bread). I leave money in my budget for little indulgences like ice cream and really good chocolate. A few bites of something sweet before bed is an almost daily event.
For daytime snacks, I sometimes have nearly nothing and other days I feel snacky and need munchies. I also need small meals or snacks to fuel my workouts if they fall at a time that isn’t near meal time. I’ll eat Greek yogurt with a bit of fruit or PB2 in it, protein shakes, rice cakes with a bit of peanut butter, or string cheese. The remainder of my grocery budget usually goes to snacks. The kids also like granola bars, homemade popcorn with the Whirley Pop, and fruit. Who am I kidding, they like to eat whatever tasty thing is in the house. They are ALWAYS hungry!
Weekly snacks/treats budget: $10-$15.
So that’s the food – now I have to actually cook it. For the double or triple batch items, I don’t have to do any extra work – just allocate a freezer bag to stick in the extra recipe for another meal. When I do this consistently, I can count on a few already prepped meals each week. These are lifesavers for the evenings when I work or for when I am too tired and lazy to think about dinner. It beats the drive through for staying on my nutrition plan too.
How I Chose My Meals
I made a point of choosing meals with a relatively high protein count and smaller amounts of carbohydrate and fat. Protein is the macronutrient target that I find the hardest to hit, but as I detail in my book, it’s a powerhouse for helping my body composition as well as helping me feel full.
What I Actually Spent
I meant to take an artful picture of my receipts and make it look glorious. Except then I cleaned out my purse and accidentally tossed the receipts. UGH! I ended up spending about $90 this week, which included not only things I needed for my meals for this week: I also stocked up on a few things for future meals. We made it work on $75-$80 a week when we had to. I know of families who have tighter budgets and make it work on even less. Your available time to really work deals will play a role too. I managed to get my stuff without any couponing this week and I feel good about how we did.
What’s your meal plan? My challenge to you is to create one and post it here or on the thread I’ve created on my Facebook page. I can’t wait to see it! (Plus new ideas for meals rock. Thanks!)
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