When people learn that our family of six spends less than $300 per month on average, they want to know what we eat. I share our monthly grocery hauls and other frugal tips on my YouTube channel and I talk about how we save money by stocking up, but that just has people begging to see what we do with it.
My tendency is to post more on preserving (canning, dehydrating, freezing) or baking (because I love brownies, cakes, and cookies) rather than actual meals. I’ve shared some ideas on menu planning, saving on groceries without coupons, cooking from scratch, and our grocery shopping. I’ve even shared a couple of our favorite dinner recipes.
But I don’t share much about what a normal menu looks like or what we actually eat to keep our food budget is consistently low.
UPDATE: I recently got brave and shared what a $400 monthly grocery budget looks like on a plate!
Why am I so hesitant to share?
So what has been holding me back? As readers you’ve told me what you want to hear about. That information is so helpful for a blogger. Still, I haven’t delivered. Here’s why:
Sometimes I wonder what we eat too.
I’m not always good at planning my own menu and often fly by the seat of my pants when it comes to dinner. I try, but I’m only sporadically really good at it. I encourage others to plan a menu because it prevents people from ordering take-out or going out to eat. Living in the boonies means that ordering a pizza if I don’t feel like making dinner just isn’t an option. Although menu planning absolutely helps me be more organized and come up with more interesting meals, because I’ve been cooking from scratch for years, I can still make dinner even if I don’t have a game plan.
I’m not a food blogger
I’m just a regular home cook who feeds her family (and is happy if at least 80% of the family eats it). Our dinners aren’t anything fancy or complex. They are just home-cooked from scratch with regular (mostly whole food) ingredients.
I’m not a food photographer
Even when I make something wonderful that tastes delicious and is a hit with the whole family (lots of bonus points for that one), my pictures don’t convey that. If something doesn’t look yummy, you aren’t going to want to make it and no one will want to pin it on Pinterest.
One time I posted a muffin recipe (which was yummy and healthy) and my dad emailed me, essentially telling me that they looked like goat droppings. (True story.) He was right, it was a horrible picture, but it’s the best that I had, so I posted anyway. Needless to say, I’ve buried that post in the archives.
Blogging a recipe or cooking tutorial is a lot of work
Taking photos of every step of the process makes the recipe take at least twice as long. It’s tricky to be the photographer and chef at the same time (thankfully my husband helps with the photos when he’s around). It’s hard to keep our tiny kitchen cleaned up as I go so that you aren’t grossed out by a messy kitchen.
I usually don’t follow a recipe
I cook with what we have, substituting other ingredients for what we don’t have. Even when I do look at a recipe to cook something new, I have a hard time sticking to it. I almost always adapt it, even when I’ve never tried it the way it’s written. For me it’s more art than science (though calling it “art” makes it sound a lot fancier than it actually is).
Because of my not cooking the exact same thing twice, I’ve been hesitant to post a “recipe” for most of the dinners I make, since it would have a thousand variations (“or you could add ___ or try ___”).
Honestly, part of the reason I haven’t shared is that I’m a little self-conscious. What if you see that my meals aren’t always balanced? What if homemade mashed potatoes is the main dish, instead of just a side dish? What if we don’t have something green with our dinner every night? What if you think our food is boring because we don’t eat meat very often? What if I tell you the way that I do something and everyone tells me that I do it the wrong way?
But I’m going to try anyway
In the spirit of doing hard things anyway, I’m going to try to share with you some of our meals in the coming weeks.
Even though sometimes I wonder what we eat… The truth is we are blessed to always eat.
Even though I’m not a food blogger… I like food and, well, everyone’s gotta eat!
Even though I’m not a food photographer... I do want to learn (I just need to make time)!
Even though blogging a recipe or cooking tutorial is a lot of work… If it helps someone get a handle on their grocery budget and start cooking from scratch, it’s worth it.
Even though I usually don’t follow a recipe… I’ll just show you what I do, and maybe you can learn to wing it and use what you have, too!
Even though I’m self-conscious… It’s time to get over it and stop worrying about what people *might* think.
So next week I’ll be starting an occasional series (see how I’m not boxing myself in here) of “Frugal Food Friday” posts where I’ll share one of our meals, along with a tutorial or “recipe” (using that term loosely here). I will do my best to plan the posts ahead of time so I can have a second chance to get a better photo if the first one flops.
My hope is that you will see that cooking from scratch and eating at home doesn’t have to look like HGTV or your Pinterest feed, but it can still taste pretty good, be pretty good for you, and save you a pretty penny.
Update– So far in the Frugal Food Friday series we have:
Versatile and Easy Potato Soup Tutorial– You don’t need a recipe for this classic!
Hawaiian Haystacks– A favorite at our house!
7 Ways to Use Nearly Expired Milk– Never waste milk again!
Fast and Frugal Taco Soup– From scratch, no cans!
Cheesy Broccoli Quiche– Super easy and uber delicious!
Chicken Pot Pie– Totally versatile– use the veggies and/or meat you have on hand.
Other Frugal Dinner Favorites:
Homemade Pizza– My kids complain about any pizza that isn’t homemade. Try this and you’ll see why.
Creamy Taco Casserole– This one was adapted from a family recipe at least 3 generations old.
Mock Lasagna– My mother-in-law created this crowd-pleasing recipe.
Soft French Bread– You’ll never buy French bread at home after having it from scratch.
Other great plans!
Frugal Real Food Meal Plans
If you’re looking for a menu that is already planned out for you, then I recommend Frugal Real Food Meal Plans. Not only are these meals made from scratch with real food (no processed stuff), the average price of a month’s meals is $350! That includes over 50 meals per month for a family of four.
I love how Frugal Real Food Meal Plans are organized. The shopping lists are done for you and includes a price guide so you know what prices to aim for when you’re stocking up on staples. Meals are ordered strategically so that ingredients are used again in other recipes so they don’t go to waste.
Feeding your family healthy, whole foods doesn’t have to be expensive!
Another plan that I’ve tried and enjoyed is Erin Chase’s MyFreezEasy freezer meal plans.
The basic version of MyFreezEasy gives you access to 8 different meal plans with new recipes each month. There is a traditional plan, gluten-free plan, slow cooker plan, clean eats plan, all chicken plan, just to name a few. You get access to ALL 8 meal plans each month.
Each meal plan includes five recipes (you make two of each one), shopping lists, prep and assembly instructions, and labels for your freezer bags or trays.
You get a complete assembly video of the traditional meal plan each month so you can actually do your prep right along with Erin Chase. You also get highlight videos of all eight of the plans, so you can get specific tips and tricks for that set of recipes.
Premium members get all the benefits of the basic membership, but you can also adjust the serving sizes for the meals, look through the recipes and create your own meal plan from all of the recipes available using a brand new drag-and-drop desktop app. You’ll also be able to save your favorite recipes so that you can easily find them for future meal plans.
Both of these plans are tried and true! Whether you use your own plans or someone else’s the key to keeping a trim grocery budget is planning!
UPDATE: I’m sharing my frugal family grocery shopping hauls over on my new YouTube channel. Head over and see exactly what groceries we buy each month!
UPDATE 2: Now that we’re done paying off student loans, we have increased our grocery budget for our family of 7 to $400. Want to see what our meals look like? Here’s the post for you: “What Our $400 Monthly Grocery Budget Looks like on a Plate.”
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