How I Spent $50 a Week for Groceries with a Family of 5

Back in 2008, I wrote an article on how our family of five budgeted only $50 a week for groceries.

That post generated a lot of response from readers, to say the least!

At the time, I was a mommy with a preschooler, a toddler, and a baby.

My husband was pastoring a church in a rural area in west Texas, and we had very little money.

In fact, back then I had more time than money!  So I used the resource I had at hand (my time!), and made the most of a very lean season for our family.

What I’m about to share with you in this post is what worked for me then.

This is how I only spent $50 a week to feed a family of five back then.

Today, I have five kids.

My husband pastors a church in an urban area, and I work from home and homeschool five kids, ranging from preschool through junior high.

I don’t have time to do all the money-saving things I did back then, and our weekly grocery budget is about three to four times what it was in 2008.

If you’re looking for creative and healthy ways to shave your grocery budget, I hope these ideas that have saved our family thousands of dollars over the years will inspire you.

Use the ideas you like, and please share your own ideas in the comments!

shop on a cash basis.

For years, Jeremy and I utilized Dave Ramsey’s idea of shopping on a cash-only basis.  This has saved us A LOT of money at the grocery store!

We had a drawer where we stashed several envelopes, and each envelope was designated for a certain purpose.

Each week, $50 went into the “grocery” envelope.

I found it much easier to stay within the budget when I knew that I only had a certain amount of money with me to pay for my groceries.

When I was first learning to shop with this budget, I took a calculator with me to the grocery store just to make sure I didn’t exceed the amount.  Eventually, I could just keep a rough tally in my head while I shopped.

I never exceeded the $50 budget, and I left the debit card and checkbook at home.

Keep a weekly shopping list and stick to it!

Nothing was worse on my budget than running off to the grocery store without a list.

Keeping a shopping list posted on our fridge is a habit I learned from my very frugal mom.  It’s something I did when I was a young wife, and it’s something I still do.

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Whenever we are low on a food item, or if I realize I need a certain ingredient for something I want to cook, I write it down immediately.

This has saved me so much trouble over the years, and it’s a whole lot easier to stick with a budget when you know exactly what you do and do not need to buy at the grocery store.

Another tip I learned from my mom: grocery shop once-a-week.  This takes some planning ahead, so let’s talk about menu planning.

Plan your weekly menu before you grocery shop.

You may wonder how this will save money, but believe me it will!

First of all, planning your menu ahead of time lets you know what ingredients you need to purchase and thus saves you from over-buying at the grocery store.

I’m less apt to buy impulsively when I know that I don’t necessarily need a bag of rice or a package of chicken for next week’s meals. Less food is bought and wasted when you know ahead of time what you’ll be using.

For me, the only exception to this “rule” was when I found something for a very good sale price that I knew I could freeze and use later.

Even then, I was pretty hard core with that $50-a-week budget.  If an item was on sale, I didn’t buy it unless it fit in the budget.

Think About What you can make yourself instead of Buying at the store.

Back in the day, I made everything from laundry soap to my own baking powder mix.

Here’s a list of what I recycled or made at home, and approximately how much I saved per week:

  • Diapers & wet wipes = approx. $10 a week (I used cloth diapers & made my own wipes)
  • Household cleaners = approx. $8 a month (I now use Melaleuca cleaners which are all natural and very cost effective.)
  • Laundry detergent = approx. $10 a month (Again, you can make your own laundry soap- I did this for several years and saved tons of money!)
  • Baby food = approx. $12 a week (homemade baby food is very simple to make & healthier, too!)
  • Canned items = approx. $5 a week (I cook & can most of my own beans, soups, sauces, etc)
  • Prepackaged beverages & snacks = approx. $5 a week (It’s much cheaper to buy or prepare a larger amount and divide them into single portions yourself.)
  • Eggs = approx. $2 a week (we got fresh eggs daily from our hens)
  • Milk = approx. $6 a week (we had milk goats and enjoyed fresh milk daily)
  • Chicken & beef = approx. $20 a month (My husband kept our freezer full of fresh beef, chicken and venison)

I also coupon’ed a lot, and bought what I could on sale or in bulk.

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In addition, I went paperless in the kitchen, so I wasn’t spending extra on paper plates, napkins, paper towels, etc.

Based on my approximations, I save about $200 a month on our grocery and household expenses.

Now remember: at the time, I was using my most abundant resource, and that was TIME.

A lot of things I have changed since my 50-dollar-a-week budget: I no longer need clothe diapers or wet wipes, and my husband no longer has time to keep up with milking goats every day.

We have a much more generous budget these days, and honestly, I’m pretty thankful that we do.  It feels good to have some room to breathe!

Honestly, feeding a family of five with a $50-a-week budget was a lot of work and a lot of planning.  But it was worth it and I definitely learned a lot about living on less!

I’m sharing this post as a way to inspire you with some creative ideas for saving money at the grocery store.

And maybe to encourage someone that you’re not alone if you’re in a financially tight season of life right now.

What are some tips you can share for saving money on groceries every week?

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