Planning meals for a family of 8 is no small feat. I have been off and on the wagon of meal planning and budget-based grocery shopping for a few months. Sometimes it takes too much of my brain-space to bother with it and we just go to the store and get what sounds good. That’s been my default plan lately and its kind of killing my wallet.
So for the summer, I decided one major task I was going to make a habit was menu planning and grocery shopping for
a crowd of monkeys my lovely family. The caveat here is that I am also trying to slash our grocery bill since my poor infirmed wallet was crying mercy. I don’t do couponing or shop the sales, I just simply don’t have the time or energy to bother with all that. But I do like to control everything and being a organized and efficient housewife major control freak lends itself to succeeding in this area if one puts her mind to it.
Upon investigating pinterest (duh) for menu plans on the cheap, I found lots of ideas but none of them were the perfect fit for our large family – most were for a family of 4 – and many of them included meals my hooligans wouldn’t eat. And in addition they were almost all for dinners only. My people eat 5 times a day, so I had to be able to feed all 8 of us all day long for about $7/day. Impossible?? Perhaps. But, of course my stubborn side took over and I decided to take my hand at this challenge and come up with my own menu and meal plan + grocery list for a large family 3 nutritious meals and 2 snacks per day for $50/week. I went to my favorite grocer, Aldi, and meticulously followed my list and even added a couple little things like chocolate chips for cookies and a nice big watermelon for cheap! And when it was all said and done, including tax and 5 plastic bags, I came in under my budget by about 40 cents.
Here is my menu for nearly two weeks worth of meals and snacks. I say nearly because the first Sunday of the 2 week span didn’t count as I grocery shopped on the Monday. Theoretically, though, there is enough food here to do another full day of leftovers somewhere in the middle or a spontaneous new meal from all the goodies purchased. And in fact, this budget & grocery list included a dinner meal and a breakfast meal that we are making for dear friends who just had a baby. So technically that really is the 14th day of meals right there. Kind of awesome and beautiful that this very tight budget and well thought-out menu plan allows for us to still be generous with our time and resources to bless those around us.
As you can see the snacks aren’t on here. I allow them to choose their snack pretty often and they get to choose from our snack drawer in the fridge or in the pantry. Some items I always try to have on hand:
As well, we often have applesauce, nuts, veggies & hummus, yogurt, crackers & laughing cow wedge cheese, belvita, and apple slices in the house for them to choose from. For this 2 week span, I didn’t stock up on a ton of snacks, as we have fruit, popcorn, veggies, goldfish, and the ingredients to make granola bars and energy bites on hand. I did purchase the goods necessary to make a few batches of cookies and muffins or quick breads.
My shopping list doesn’t include many of the staples you would normally already have in your kitchen. I try very hard to stagger out the purchase of those staples and to buy certain things in bulk which allows for a little more wiggle room on a monthly basis in our budget. When menu planning, I shop my freezer or pantry first: what do I already have on hand that we need to or want to use first and plan meals around that. Then come up with your 3 meals for every day and formulate your grocery list from there.
|Gr. Beef 4lbs||8|
I wrote out every item we would need for these meals, that we didn’t already have, and the approximate cost at Aldi (with the exception of the Chicken Breasts which I had planned on getting from Costco – which is 10lbs of Chicken for $23 – but as it turns out I opted for a smaller bag of chicken from Aldi and was able to sneak in a few little extras into this shop with the overage that provided me). The extra items I ended up purchasing were: watermelon, 2 additional dozen eggs (at $0.68 each!!!!!), yogurt tubes, an additional sour cream, 2 packages of chocolate chips for cookies, an additional pound of pork sausage and an additional pound of ground beef and some canned green beans & corn. I am pretty happy with that last minute change I decided upon. Usually the investment in a large bag of chicken from Costco means more room in my budget next time since I have that in my freezer to shop from but this seemed to make more sense right now for what our menu looks like.
It was a LOT of food. My guesstimate budget was $101 and my actual total at the checkout was $100.53. I know. Even I was impressed with myself. Ha. I got so excited by this little victory that I decided to share the awesomeness with you all. Because that’s what friends do. Or as they say: friends don’t let friends spend too much on groceries. Wait, they don’t say that? Well they will now. I am basically a trend-setter y’all.
I will plan to share some of my recipes and details on how I use some of this food to stretch it across 14 days worth of meals in my next post. Including the recipe for this delicious breakfast casserole!