Looking for a grocery list for two weeks? I'll share our two week meal plan on a budget, plus strategies for how to only grocery shop twice a month (no scurvy here!).

woman pushing cart through grocery store, text overlay "don't know what to buy at the grocery store? 2 week meal plan on a budget"More and more people seem to be joining the twice-a-month grocery shopping bandwagon, creating a grocery list for two weeks instead of one, and figuring out two-week meal plans on a budget.

We’ve been doing this for years now.

Grocery shopping every other week is wonderful for our household:

  • one less errand to run twice a month
  • we’re spending less money at the store (we've calculated the savings each month are between $100 and $160)
  • we're planning our meals out much better

But I must admit that the first week of a new two-week grocery cycle is easier than the second. The first week you get the pick of the refrigerator and the pantry, which usually entails eating the most convenient foods: granola bars, chips, strawberries, ice-cream, lunch meat.

By the middle of the second week you’ve run out of these more convenient foods and have to start putting in some elbow grease and a dash of creativity to keep the food varied and to have convenient foods ready for the workweek.

Still, we've gotten really good at creating a 2-week meal plan on a budget. Let me share ours with you, plus give you a free printable for the grocery store!

2 Week Meal Plan on a Budget – The Recipes

Ack! It's grocery shopping day and I don't have a plan (let alone a 2 week meal plan on a budget)!!

You haven't ever said that, have you;)?

We found out years ago that shopping every other week not only saved us money, but also saved us time and energy.

Now that we've got a baby, shopping every other week has become even more helpful.

Not only that, but my husband, Paul, is in college full-time plus works full-time, and I am a WAHM (work at home Mom). So it takes a little juggling to schedule one baby-free evening to grocery shop every other week, let alone if we were to shop once a week.

Since I do only grocery shop every other week, it takes some real planning on my part.

And you know what? Sometimes I just haven't wanted to take the hour or two to plan and make a list.

And sometimes I have wanted to − I enjoy trying new recipes − but the time just slipped away and I was left figuring out what I was going to make (and throwing lots of extra into the cart) to make it through two whole weeks.

So I got to thinking:

what if I have a set two-week meal plan that I can fall back on no matter what? What would that look like?

And if I'm going to do that for myself, I might as well make it available to you (hope you like what we like to eat!).

You'll want to bookmark this list or Pin it so that you can get to the recipes. Then print out the grocery shopping list at the bottom of this post, and cross off what you already have. That way, you've already got your list together for two whole weeks' worth of meals! Awesomesauce.

Note: These recipes are ALL tested and thought to be delicious by us. I hope you like them as well!

Here are links to the Main Dish recipes:

  1. Butternut Squash Mac ‘N' Cheese
  2. Chicken Gyros: the sauce makes so much that I freeze half of it and then don't need to make it the next time I make this dish
  3. One-Pot Chicken Burrito Bowls
  4. Food Nanny's Chicken Barbecue PizzaFood Nanny's Pizza Dough recipe
  5. Biggest Loser's Tara's Turkey Mini-Meatloaf
  6. Spaghetti Carbonara with Peas
  7. Apple, Bacon, and Cheddar Grilled Cheese Sandwich
  8. Tomato, Bacon, and Spinach Quiche
  9. Florentine Vegetable Sauce with Penne (if I don't have heavy cream, I substitute with my almond milk)
  10. Asian Turkey Lettuce Cups
  11. Leftover Pizza (pizza dough, sauce, mozzarella cheese, and whatever veggies are leftover in your fridge)
  12. Julia's Favorite Roast Chicken (this is perfect for a Sunday dinner made by my husband, then I use the chicken for a quick Monday dinner − see next)
  13. Chicken Strips on a Salad (Use chicken gleaned from the roasted chicken, then add lettuce/spinach, shredded carrots/shredded cheese, chopped veggies, and ranch dressing)
  14. Swiss Fondue (Bonus: this could be paired with a date night at home! I omit the kirsch, dry sherry or brandy because I don't ever have any on hand)

Here are the Side Dish/Veggie Recipes to Pair with Recipes Above:

Print out your free grocery shopping list that goes with these recipes for 2 week meal plan on a budget (just click the image below and it'll automatically download).

Check in your cupboards, freezer, and fridge. Cross of what you already have, then shop for everything else that's leftover. Done and over with!

Dinner is planned, my dear.

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My Meal Planning System

I'm a systems person.

In my biz, in my personal life − really anywhere that I can find a system to repeat and optimize − I'm going to do it.

Some things have become so second-nature to me that I forget it's a system (rather than just repeated steps I just do).

Like my meal planning system.

It occurred to me the other day that I've had a meal planning + grocery shopping system in place for years now and have never thought to document it to share with you all.

Boo to that!

Let me break my meal planning system down for you so that you can get your own in check:

We Grocery Shop Every Other Week

The first thing you need to know is that we grocery shop every other week. This was an intentional method we started during an effort to save money + energy back in 2009.

And it's paid off big time.

Questioning whether or not you can get your food to last two weeks (without coming down with scurvy)? It's totally doable to not only have your food last for two weeks, but to also enjoy fruits and veggies throughout the process.

Where I Source the Recipes I'm Going to Make

On the day of my grocery shopping trip, I (generally) sit down to excitedly pick out recipes I get to make over the next two weeks.

There are three places that I source these recipes:

  1. Pinterest Account: It's fun to repin gorgeous-looking, food photos and to-die-for recipes…but I actually want to try them out! So I make sure to open up my laptop to my Pinterest account and choose a recipe or two that I want to try from several of my meal boards.
  2. My Recipe Binder: I've had a binder for years where I store recipes torn from magazines. Yeah, I'm a total organization geek. But can you think of a better way to keep all those torn out recipes from magazines you wanna try?
  3. My Recipe Caddy: I purchased a recipe caddy from the dollar store as a teenager because it's always been important to me to document recipes that I'd like to keep + pass on one day (sniffle!). A recipe has to blow my mind to make the cut into this caddy. Now that I'm married, it's gotta blow two minds. (Confession: for very sentimental recipes, I write where it came from or where we made it in the top right corner of the note card. Like Paul's Potato Soup he made us in Williamsburg, VA, or Paul's grandmother's sweet potato casserole she used to make each Thanksgiving. It adds a personal touch that makes me smile + maintains the history).

I typically choose 2-3 new recipes I want to try making. Then the rest are from the trusty recipe caddy.

Paul also loves to cook (I got me a winner!), so he adds his ingredients to the list when he has time.

Gathering Ingredients

We keep a magnetized notepad stuck to our fridge. As we run out of ingredients, they go on the list (this is key to a non-stressful, grocery prep time).

On meal planning day, I grab this list and add to it from the recipes I've chosen. During this time, I also check in our cupboards/freezer/etc. to see if we already have an ingredient so that we don't accidentally buy duplicates.

Note: when do we buy duplicates? When there's a sale on an ingredient that we use over and over again, as long as the item will not expire before we can use it. For example, when macaroni noodles go on sale from $1.16 to 10/$10, I buy two boxes because I know we'll be eating our treasured butternut squash mac'n'cheese recipe consistently. Or when butter goes on sale, I buy two, and freeze one à la Julia Childs.  

Keep On Track with the Magical Recipes Folder

Then I put all of the chosen recipes I'm going to use in my trusty recipe folder that's kept on the desk in our kitchen. That's what I refer to during the week when figuring out what to cook instead of having to look everything up in the moment or try to remember what the heck I mapped out to make.

PSSST: Yes, I'm a planning geek…but not to the point where I choose X day I'm going to cook Y recipe. I leave it a little spontaneous!

Further Time + Money Saving Grocery Tips

When I come back from grocery shopping and Paul and I unpack, we put the unused portions of products in front of or on top of new items, with the newer items behind or below. This is so that we use them up first before they expire.

I also try to clean the fridge out on grocery shopping days before hitting the store since it's much more empty anyway. I say try, because it doesn't always happen.

That's my meal planning + grocery shopping system in a nutshell. Share your own below. Or if you wing it, share that too!

Tips for How to Grocery Shop for Two Weeks (and Make the Food Last both Weeks)

Between my freezer cooking day post and this two-week meal plan, you can have a month's worth of food pre-planned (with half of it super easy to put into the slow cooker or oven and fahgedaboutit!).

Based on our experience I thought I could offer some insight on how we stretch the food in our household to include a wholesome, nutritional, satiating diet for the full two weeks.

Tip #1: Save Sunday Afternoon for Cooking

My biggest tip is to cook on Sundays, which is something both my husband and I love to do.

There is something so warm and comforting about this to me — the smells, the warmth in the house, seeing the person you love working in the kitchen for the family — and it's a very inviting way to start off the coming week.

But aside from all of that goodness? By cooking for several hours on the Sunday of the second week of groceries, we are able to make plenty of food to keep us from prematurely stepping foot into a grocery store or convenience store.

Below are some of the foods I cook and prepare.

Tip #2: Strategically Keep Fruits and Veggies in your Diet that Second Week

Not all fruits or vegetables will last into that second week.

They just weren't meant for that.

But that in NO WAY means you won't be eating fruits and vegetables in Week 2 and 4 of the month. That would be super unhealthy!

Here's how we do that:

  • To Satisfy the Sweet Tooth: By week two the ice-cream we eat for dessert is gone (confession: we typically obliterate it in 4 nights). Instead, I take the ripe bananas I have frozen from previous weeks when I did not get around to eating them, the frozen berries I always stock up on, and I make Frozen Banana Bites , Smoothies, and Monster Pops (ooohhh my goodness my three-year-old son cannot get enough of my Monster Pops. He eats them once a day! I steam a carrot, then get a frozen banana and frozen watermelon chunks from the freezer. It all gets pureed, then put into these ADORABLE monster pop molds). My favorite smoothie includes bananas, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and about half a cup of almond milk. It comes out velvety and the color is amazing!
  • Cook with Squash: We love butternut squash, which happens to stay good for a long period of time. I make butternut squash risotto and butternut squash mac ‘n’ cheese. But one butternut squash is enough for several of these recipes, so I freeze what I don’t need in portions needed for each of our recipes. Then, when I want to cook something delicious on a chaotic week night, I just need to take the pre-roasted butternut squash out of the freezer and throw it in the pan. We also keep canned pumpkin puree in our home, and love to cook creamy pumpkin soup.
  • Make Pesto: We always keep fish in our freezer. It's easy to whip up a batch of pesto from our own basil in the garden (by garden I mean one pot of growing vegetation in our backyard). Pesto tastes amazing on white fish (tilapia); you can also use it in an array of other dishes (have you ever smeared some pesto onto grilled cheese sandwiches? Yummy.). It adds a nice punch of green on your plate! Unfortunately this one is not available all year round (unless you grow basil indoors, or freezer your pesto).
  • Rosemary Potatoes: We keep dried rosemary from Paul’s mother (thank you!) hanging in our kitchen. Paul pairs this with olive oil, salt, pepper, and quartered potatoes (red potatoes are best, but we even just cut up regular potatoes into small pieces if that’s what we’ve got).

Tip #3: Batch Cook Recipes that Can Make New Recipes

Back to the Sunday cooking…cook a batch of something (ideas below) on a Sunday that you can then use a base for the next 3-4 meals during your week.

  • Roast a Chicken: Another staple we keep in our freezer are whole chickens. Roasting a whole chicken brings delicious smells to your kitchen and home. This is the centerpiece to a beautiful Sunday meal, and since there are only two of us adults and one, picky, 3-year old, we can use the meat over several days for chicken enchiladas, chicken salads, etc.
  • Brownies: Ummm…I'm just throwing this in here (chocoholic). Somehow I always have brownie ingredients on hand. Tip — put a tsp. or so of cinnamon in your brownie batch. It elevates the entire experience!
  • Chili: My husband makes awesome chili. I love to eat it in a bowl with avocados (might sound weird, but is oh-so-good), sour cream, cheese, and Fritos. Then throughout the week we make Chili Baked Potatos, Chili nachos with fresh salsa (Paul is a pro!), and sometimes chili hot dogs.

Tip #4: How to Get Organic and Clean Foods on a Budget

When you set a concrete budget for groceries, you become acutely aware of any rise in prices.

Perhaps not right away, but it can eat away at your budget’s spending power.

So, we’ve made adjustments as we go along. This is also combined with our desire to purchase more organic/clean foods, despite the typical higher cost (at least in the short term).

Here’s what we purchase organic/clean, and how we save money (if any):

  • Shop the clearance meat section: this allows us to buy organic, hormone-free meats when available (I would say we purchase organic meats 30% the time)
  • Cage-free brown eggs
  • Organic chicken broth
  • Ezekiel Bread
  • HFCS-free: most of our groceries are free of HFCS, which involves a lot of ruthless, ingredient-label reading
  • Organic salad mix
  • Organic milk
  • Use olive oil for almost everything (except when frying, which I found out could turn it rancid; we have a small bottle of grapeseed oil and vegetable oil for this)

Tip #5: Make Use of End-of-the-Week Meals

Sometimes we feel the end-of-the-second-week blues.

This is usually because all of our more convenient foods have been eaten so when we open up the same cupboards, pantry, and freezer over and over we can’t seem to find anything to eat.

This is when we lean on our staple items that we naturally keep stocked from within our $300 budget.

Ingredients that tend to already be in our kitchen include peanut butter, jam, condiments (including soy sauce/fish sauce/sesame oil/other Asian ingredients), tahini, fish, chicken, various types of pasta, pasta sauce, spices/seasonings, flour, sugar, brown sugar, butter, canned pumpkin, etc.

Some of our end-of-the-second-week meals include:

  • PB&J or tuna fish sandwiches for lunch with carrots/ranch dressing
  • Loaf of artisan bread (recipe linked above, and it tastes great with butter and honey!)
  • Creamy pumpkin soup
  • Smoothies from the frozen berries we keep in the freezer and almond milk which lasts longer than regular milk
  • Butternut squash dishes
  • Oatmeal
  • Roast chicken (we usually have a few stocked in our freezer)

Tip #6: Ways to Save on Specific Ingredients

After each grocery shopping trip, I ensure that the older ingredients that are still leftover (and good) are physically in front of or on top of the new ingredients in the refrigerator so that we use up the old food before diving into the new.

Here are a few other ways that I have found to save money on specific ingredients:

  • I use ginger in several dishes. Instead of having to buy new ginger roots every other week when the old goes bad, I freeze the entire root and grate off the ginger as needed.
  • I freeze all of our unused bananas to use in recipes such as shakes and vegan ice-cream.
  • We freeze bread endings for use in stuffing when the stash gets big enough.
  • Paul’s mother gives us beautiful sprigs of rosemary from her garden for use in recipes.
  • For pesto, we use basil from our garden and walnuts instead of expensive pine nuts.

These money-saving tips and lessons did not occur overnight, but rather through trial, error, and necessity.

Some of my tips will work for your family, while others may not (and I would love to hear your own in the comments below!).

How often do you shop for groceries? I’d love for you to share some of your favorite recipes below!

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Amanda L. Grossman is a Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 10 years, her money work helping people with how to save money and how to manage money has been featured in Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here.
33 replies
    • Amanda L Grossman
      Amanda L Grossman says:

      Thanks so much, Julie! Not at the moment. I’ll keep your couponing request in mind for future posts:). Tune into the next two Mondays for upcoming posts on how I do a freezer cooking day, and a meal plan for two weeks’ worth of dinners.

      Reply
  1. alice
    alice says:

    We have a family of 4 in Chicago suburb and buy kosher meats and cheeses… and we eat A LOT… so far for the month of nov $381 total grocery shopping… ( its the last week and I shopped yesterday)

    Reply
  2. Cheryl
    Cheryl says:

    Great post! My husband does the shopping and cooking and as we were eating our leftover dinner of barbecued pork (instead of chicken) pizza, he said “do you realize how cheap we have been eating?” We make chicken stock in the crockpot and dried beans too. We don’t have a budget, but starting September 1st I am planning to with YNAB software. I was thinking $300 a month and am going to challenge DH! It should be plenty because we both eat lunch free at our work.
    I am glad I found your blog via Cheapism/Pinterest, I am putting you on my reading list!

    Reply
  3. Funny about Money
    Funny about Money says:

    yipe! Eight hundred dollah…that’s scary.

    On the other hand, it depends on whether you’re counting ALL the things you buy at grocery stores — and with little kids that would include baby shampoo, diapering products (diaper rash cream, baby powder, etc.), baby oil, and the like — or whether you count only food.

    I buy most household goods (paper towels, TP, cleaning goods, etc.) at Costco. But since I also buy most nonperishable foods there (and some produce I can’t get anywhere else) and some of my clothing, it would be very hard to separate out food only.

    Hmmm…lookit those recipes! Any time the Restaurant of Your House opens for business, lemme know…I’d like to make a reservation!

    Reply
    • FruGal
      FruGal says:

      We will let you know:).

      Good point on purchasing things other than food at the grocery store, and whether or not that is included in her $800. For us, it’s basically only food at the grocery store, and toiletries at a drugstore.

      Reply
  4. Squirrelers
    Squirrelers says:

    That’s a great job on keeping food costs low. In my household, with kids, it’s a different ballgame. Truth be told, I’ve spend a bit too much of late on eating food outside. I’m all set to cut back not only for money, but primarily for health. That’s the other real benefit of eating at home!

    Reply
    • FruGal
      FruGal says:

      You definitely brought up a good point with the health factor. Typically eating out means a lot of added calories and fats!

      Reply
  5. Crystal @ Prairie Ecothrifter
    Crystal @ Prairie Ecothrifter says:

    We are looking into cutting our own food spending a lot the next 2 months. We eat out socially with friends, so we are going to try to cut down from $700-ish to $450-ish to stay realistic. We aren’t going to stop meeting friends during the week or cooking for them on the weekends, but we can make cheaper choices. Potlucks and splitting the cost of cooked meals has already been helping.

    Reply
    • FruGal
      FruGal says:

      Hi Crystal!

      I like that you are not going to stop being social, but instead are finding ways to save money where friends and food are involved (and your potluck themes and foods are always tasty!). $450ish sounds like a great goal. Good luck with it!

      Reply
  6. Ali @ WHOLEistically Fit
    Ali @ WHOLEistically Fit says:

    Thanks so much for sharing! I’m always looking for ways to cut our grocery bill. I tried clicking on the photos of the receipts, but they weren’t clickable for me so I wasn’t able to read the receipts. Not sure if others are having the same issue or not. Thanks! 😀

    Reply
    • FruGal
      FruGal says:

      Okay, I’ve increased the size so people should be able to read the receipts without having to click on them (which, for whatever reason, does not want to work).

      Thanks again!

      Reply
  7. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    When I make the switch to self-employment, I definitely want to have our food budget be somewhere around $300 per month. Right now we are at around $500, and that doesn’t include going out for drinks or anything like that.

    Reply
  8. Caroline
    Caroline says:

    Hi Amanada, Good Post and a good read!! One of the things I noticed was that you are buying whole chicken (excellent!). We raise our own due to our daughter being in 4H but anyway if you have a whole chicken, after you are finished with the first “large” meal, make sure you get all the extra back meat off, etc, that no one wants to eat and place it in a large crock post to make homemade chicken stock. I noticed you are listing chicken stock as something you are buying! Ack! If you have concerns about fat content, skim off the top layer of fat (which we don’t). I can give you my recipe.

    Reply
    • FruGal
      FruGal says:

      Hi Caroline!

      That’s a great idea–we’ve never made our own chicken stock, but from what you’ve said it might not be difficult. I think what has always turned me off from trying to do so is a lot of recipes call for using whole veggies in the stock…I think that is a waste because you can eat the whole veggies as snacks or dinner sides. Does your recipe call for that?

      Reply
      • Brenda
        Brenda says:

        I never “doctor” my homemade chicken stock. The whole chicken was seasoned before roasting. That provides extra flavor. I prefer to season when using.

        After pulling off all the meat, I break the carcass to fit the pan. Cover with water. Simmer until bones are clean. Strain into large metal or glass container (bowl). The narrower the container the thicker the fat after cooling & refrigerating. Remember you have to be able to remove the fat! I scrape off the fat. Scoop into quart size freezer bags. Fold top to remove air, seal, flatten, label.
        2 cups = 1 can.

        Remember the bones contain the gelatin. It is normal for it to be like jelly. My last few chickens have not had much gelatin.

        Reply
        • FruGal
          FruGal says:

          Thank you very much Brenda! That’s nice to know that I wouldn’t have to put in good veggies to use towards the stock.

          Reply
          • mary w
            mary w says:

            You can also save veggie scraps (carrot tops, tomato cores, onion ends, etc. – most of the stuff that otherwise ends up in compost) in the freezer to add to your chicken broth.

            Or just by themselves to make veggie broth. If you make plain veggie stock then you can use the cooked veggies in compost when the broth is done.

  9. novel investor
    novel investor says:

    Been doing two weeks for a couple years now and wouldn’t switch. It took a while to figure out what lasts and how long.

    Usually stick to one big pasta meal every two weeks. Great for an extra meal or two, I can’t do small portion Italian food.

    Reply
  10. Financial Independence
    Financial Independence says:

    We shop whenever we need too, our diet is fairly stable and similar. No ice cream at home although.
    The reason for it is many berries and fruits have very limited storage time, once you unpack them.
    The same with fish and meat, it is better when it is fresh, bread will go along.

    But it depends what you are aiming for. Every little helps.

    I collected and published information about our family budget over 4 years and groceries is only fraction of it.
    If you try to save on it, not going to be a lot.

    Reply
  11. Neo
    Neo says:

    I am SO guilty of eating out way too much. However, I can also make a box of pasta last for a few weeks by eating a little each day. I guess that makes me a man of extremes… This is why I save first, so my saving is already done and my spending automatically stays in-check.

    Reply
  12. Olivia
    Olivia says:

    We have two young males who plow through milk and a smallish fridge. So right now the once a week shopping is the way to go. Gratefully stores are nearby.

    Did you know you can freeze pesto? We had an amazing crop of basil this summer and have small jars tucked in all over. It should last us well into winter. We’ll baby the plants as long as we can into fall and use the fresh as long as we can, but it will be nice to have the stash during dreary days. Have you ever tried it on homemade pizza? Oh man.

    Reply
  13. Hunter
    Hunter says:

    Pesto! This takes me back to college and my early twenties.

    We have a MASSIVE fridge and our family of 5 cleans it out weekly, even faster for some things like juice and milk. I can see the merits of your great ideas but for now we need to stick to our just-in-time grocery system.

    Reply
  14. Crystal @ Industrial Special Risk Insurance
    Crystal @ Industrial Special Risk Insurance says:

    We shop for the basics once a month, but I go on supplemental fruit and milk runs about 4 times a month.

    Reply
  15. Money Beagle
    Money Beagle says:

    My wife goes once a week. I think we will be set on many items as we’ve been stocking up. We’ll need the perishables, lunch meat, milk, eggs, etc. but we have a lot of meat, pasta, sauces, soups, and other staples so hopefully our bills will be low for awhile.

    Reply
  16. Jana
    Jana says:

    I shop weekly because there are some things like milk, juice, fruit and vegetables that we go through too fast and have to replensih. I do stock up on items like pasta, rice, canned tomatoes and frozen veggies when there is a good sale.

    to keep costs down, I always shop with a list. I’m not too good with creating my own recipes but I rely heavily on certain websites and cookbooks for meal ideas.

    Reply
  17. Sustainable PF
    Sustainable PF says:

    We shop weekly. I find some items just won’t keep 2 weeks, for example, sandwich meat. Some fruits/produce spoil before 2 weeks as well – especially when it has travelled 2000 miles to arrive at our grocer, to sit on a counter until we finally buy it. It is far from fresh.

    Staples are also required weekly – bread, milk etc.

    That being said we do like to stock up on things and freeze them. However, we find there are new deals each week at the grocer so we like to pick up things that have been priced down.

    Reply

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