cheap healthy meal plan for two

Need a cheap healthy meal plan for two (that lasts for two weeks at a time)? Here's how I fed our family of two on $288.78 for an entire month.

A reader emailed me concerned about the amount of money her family spends on food.

Her grocery bill for four people (husband with kids aged 4 and 1) has ballooned to almost $800 a month, and they eat out for lunch and dinner approximately twice a week.

Some weeks she says that it seems like they won’t make it to the end of the week before they reach the end of their food. She shops almost exclusively at Kroger’s, and feels that each month it just keeps getting worse.

She asked whether or not we have a master shopping list, and if we wouldn’t mind sharing it. I thought it was a great idea!

Before I open up our kitchen and eating habits to you all, I’d like to give some context.

Our grocery budget each month used to be $250.

When we paid off the last of our non-mortgage debt in September 2010, we added $50 to our budget for a total of $300 per month.

We only grocery shop twice per month.

Not only has this decreased the amount of time we need to spend on planning meals, but I am convinced that it cuts costs because there are only two chances for impulse buys instead of four.

It also allows us to get creative with our meals, specifically during the second week when the more convenient foods have been eaten.

At the moment I shop at Kroger, and do not hop from store-to-store to chase deals.

If we go out to eat—which is only once or twice a month—it comes out of our fun money budget. We also both love to cook things from scratch, and Paul cooks more often than I do.

Our grocery budget typically does not include toiletries, as we play the Drugstore Game. Finally, we shop the clearance bins, discount bins, and clearance meat sections at our local store.

Below are our receipts for the month of July:

Receipt from Grocery Shopping Trip #1:Shopping Trip 1 collage

Receipt from Grocery Shopping Trip #2:Shopping trip 2 collage

Below are the recipes and meals that we made in July from the groceries + staple items in our home. I have included links to the exact recipes when I could find them online.

Dinner Recipes

Let me share with you what we made for dinners from the list above:

Sides

For side dishes, we had:

Breakfast

Breakfasts included:

Lunches

For lunch, we enjoyed:

  • Leftovers
  • sandwiches
  • salad
  • blueberries
  • fresh pineapple
  • apples
  • yogurt
  • carrots/ranch dressing
  • grapes
  • chips
  • fig newtons
  • strawberries
  • pumpkin soup
  • cheese dog with chili
  • pepperoni/cheese stacked on crackers
  • applesauce
  • homemade guacamole.

Desserts/Sweet Snacks

Dessert is definitely a course in this household. Desserts in July included:

Organic and Clean Foods in Our Diet on this 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)

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)

How We 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!).

Also, this is an outline for two people who love to cook from scratch.

In the case of the reader, with four people in her family, I would advise that she attempt to cut her $800 grocery bill to $500 (and perhaps in $100 increments until she reaches that target). At this price point, there are certainly people who spend less with a family of four, and certainly people who spend more.

How many people are in your family, and how much is your grocery bill each month? Do you also eat out?

I’m digging this cheap healthy meal plan for two (this woman spent just $288.78 for the month!). The recipes are AWESOME – I know my husband will love them, too. #mealplan #mealprep #groceries #savemoney

 

23 replies
  1. 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.

  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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

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