Real Food Meal Plan for the Broke

Real food meal plan for the broke


I have a real heart for those that want to eat healthy but feel like they can’t because of the cost.

I’ll be the first to admit, real food is not cheap!  Food in general isn’t cheap, whether it’s processed food or not.  I try my hardest to squeeze every little bit I can out of our budget, but I still spend about $125-150 on food every week.  For some of you, that may be low.  For some of you, that may be extremely high.

If you qualify for food stamps, this is the typical allotted amount for a family of four, but I know that many are just above qualifying for food stamps, and would absolutely struggle with that kind of budget for food.  What are they supposed to do?

There are many of us that find ourselves in situations in life where we feel just flat broke. Maybe someone in your family has lost a job.  Maybe you have medical bills piling.  Maybe you are working two minimum wage jobs and still feel like you can’t keep up.  Maybe you are a single parent trying to make ends meet.  Whatever the situation, I hear ya loud and clear!  Life is often rough.

I thought I would try to come up with a real food meal plan for the broke, that doesn’t sacrifice nutrition and taste, and still delivers healthy real food without costing an arm and a leg.  I wanted to keep it under $80 for the week, so that would be $.95/person per meal.  You can’t even eat off a value menu for that price. 

For budget purposes, I’m going to use prices from Aldi and Trader Joes.  These two places have the least expensive options in my area. I tried to indicate on many of the items, where I found these prices.  Your area may be different, but these are REAL prices that I found at both of these stores.  I also set two different price points, one with fewer organics, and one with top of the line quality.  This will give you some wiggle room to pick and choose as your budget allows.

Many of these dry goods, like oats, flour, cornmeal, baking powder, rice, beans, etc. can also be used again for subsequent weeks, which means even greater savings in the weeks to come.

Edit: Here are more frugal meal plans that I have written.

February frugal meal plan

March frugal meal plan

April frugal meal plan

May frugal meal plan

June frugal meal plan

The Plan

Breakfast Dinner
Monday Scrambled eggs, toast Pinto beans, collard greens, cornbread
Tuesday Oatmeal, butter, maple syrup Vegetable frittata, oven roasted potatoes
Wednesday Scrambled eggs, leftover cornbread Chicken legs, sweet potato fries, green beans
Thursday Scrambled eggs, bacon, fruit Pinto bean tacos
Friday Oatmeal, butter, maple syrup Egg drop soup, vegetable fried rice
Saturday Pancakes, bacon Cabbage and ground beef skillet, hashbrowns
Sunday Leftover pancakes or oatmeal Salmon patties, buttered peas, glazed carrots


Real food for the broke

The recipes



  • Leftovers when available
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches
  • carrot sticks
  • any fruit available
  • any unused vegetables


-Save chicken legs and immediately put in the crockpot for chicken stock.

The Ingredients

Real food meal plan for the broke

This includes every single thing on the menu, assuming you are starting from scratch, except for salt and pepper.  If you have some of the pantry items already, it will greatly reduce your bill.


bananas(5) .95 Aldi tamari 4.09
seasonal fruit 3.00 whole wheat flour 2.99/5lb. TJs
collard greens 2.00 rice
organic basmati TJs
/ conventional Aldi
broccoli .79 corn tortillas 1.00/12ct. TJs
garlic .79 salsa 1.99 TJs
organic TJs
/conventional Aldi
baking powder .99
sweet potatoes 1.99/3lb. olive oil 5.99 TJs
green beans 1.69/1lb. butter
4.00 /
carrots .89/1lb. milk gallon
organic raw
7.00 /
onions 1.69/3lb. eggs 2 dozen
pasture raised/
/ 4.00
cabbage 1.69 cheddar cheese 4.00
frozen peas 1.00 ground beef
grass fed local farmer
oats 3.99/2lb. chicken legs(5)
organic free range TJs
pinto beans 1.69/2lb. canned salmon 2.69
fine ground corn meal 2.29/1lb. bacon 3.89
real maple syrup  Aldi 3.99/8.5oz. Aldi

The Price


Low end $77.74

*This is all conventional produce and eggs, but still includes nitrate free bacon, grass-fed beef, organic chicken, and milk free from artificial growth hormones.  All ingredients are whole food ingredients and no extra additives.


High end:  89.34

*This includes organic butter, eggs from pasture-raised hens, organic raw milk, and organic rice and produce on dirty dozen items.


More money saving tips:

If you really need to cut back a little more you could:

Buy only a half gallon of milk

Forgo the salsa

Forgo the maple syrup and use fruit to top pancakes

Buy smaller portions of vegetables like carrots, potatoes, etc.


I hope this helps those of you who are struggling to make ends meet, but still want to eat well.  This is just one example of how you can feed your family of four well under $100 for 3 meals a day, 7 days a week.  There are many more combinations of frugal healthy food that you can work with to nourish your family and live within your means.  I do want to say though, if you are truly hungry, don’t feel bad about having to do what you can with the resources you have.  If that means getting boxed food from a food pantry, by all means, DO IT!  It’s better to fill the bellies, than to do without.  You can only do what you can do.  Make wise choices, and don’t feel bad about the rest.  The Lord’s grace is sufficient for you!

Want more information?

Check out my ebook Eat Well, Spend Less! It breaks down many of these principles to teach you how to trim your food budget while still eating whole foods.

Eat Well Spend Less Chapter 1

Interested in more frugal meal plans already done for you?

I have September and October monthly meal plans ready to go for you. All you have to do is buy the groceries and cook. The monthly plans are free. The printable pack with shopping lists, detailed recipes, prep notes, and a calendar is $3.99.

October printable pack


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  1. manda says

    that is no way the typical amount of food stamps for a fam of 4! we are a fam of 7 one income and get 375 a month, maybe in other states but not where i live I only wish i could spend 150 a wk on food.

    • Tara says

      It can definitely vary depending on your income and other factors. I got that number from this website. That is someone who is receiving full benefits.
      That’s the reason I wrote this post. I feel like many “budget” posts I see are too high. Many people, like yourself, would dream of spending $150/week on food. It’s just not realistic for many of us. I hope that helps clarify where that statement was coming from. It sounds like you are doing an amazing job! I’d love for you to share some tips with us on how you make it work. I think it might help many readers to share your wisdom with us.

      • Carol says

        $150/wk. That would be wonderful. $100/wk I’d be happy with. I am a “family” of one and I am on a fs budget of $60/mo. While it can be done, to an extent, it is very difficult to eat healthy. I have learned to make things like “Hamburger Steaks” with lentils. It’s actually pretty tasty.

      • Rebecca says

        I’ve actually applied for foodstamps when I was only part time. The eligibility test said I could get about 200 dollars of assistance even after I put in all of my income (rounded up) which wasn’t much. I don’t have a car, a house, or anything sellable and I only had about “30 dollars spare” (ie not gone to bills yet) in the bank. I ended up approved for 30 dollars of assistance because I’m not married to my fiance even though I take care of all his expenses whilst he was too sick to work his expenses were not counted. 😐 The system isn’t helpful at all for giving you an idea of your benefits.

  2. Rg says

    Just to clarify, we use the gnawed on chicken bones to make chicken stock? Do we wash them first & make sure no one sees us doing it or just lave them slobbery & just keep it real?

    • Tara says

      Hehe. Yes use the bones that you ate off of to make chicken stock. You could also throw in veggie scraps and ends that you used throughout the week too. You could wash them if you want, but as long as no one is ill, it won’t hurt you just to thow them in and keep it real. :)

    • simone says

      There’s also the option of cutting/pulling the meat off of the bone before serving. I do it because bone-in meat totally weirds me out, but it also tends to be the cheapest so I buy it anyway. I’m a pansy… but an incredibly cheap, penny pinching pansy. :)

      • Laura says

        I also cut meat off the bone either before cooking or before serving the meal. If I’m not going to make stock within a day or two, I throw the bones in a freezer bag and freeze until I’m ready to use them.

        Another tip – use the cuttings/peelings from your vegetables to make stock. I save them every time I cook and throw them all into a freezer bag together. When the bag is full, I make stock with the bones and vegetable trimmings I’ve saved.

  3. says

    A pound of grass fed beef is at least $6 here. In fact, a lot of the items on your grocery list are more expensive here. Unfortunately the closest Trader Joe’s is a 45 minute drive. But still, I like your ideas and will try to incorporate them into my meal planning. Please do another week!

    • Tara says

      I can not get grass fed beef in a store for $3.50/lb either. That price quoted is reflective of the bulk price that I get from my farmer. I live in the midwest so this might be higher in your area. Steaks, roasts, ground beef, etc come in bulk and it averages out to 3.50lb. It’s much more economical than buying from the store. I’d go broke if I was trying to buy grass-fed beef from our markets.

  4. Lisa says

    Having learned how to cook from scratch early on, I applaud your “real food” recipes. Simple ingredients. Great menu planning. Kudos to you for sharing healthy eating to a new generation. I shop my farmers market for seasonal produce and look for markdowns at the meat counter to save $$. Still cook dried beans, homemade soups, etc. to freeze in pint jars.
    Great work, Tara. <

  5. Sasha says

    I just want to be sure I understand that this is a meal plan for a family of four? This is an awesome guide, thank you so much for taking the time to put it all together!

    • Tara says

      Yes. Four people. Kids would only get one chicken leg and adults would get 1.5. Some things are tight, but on a tight budget, that happens. I hope that helps clarify.

  6. says

    Had to laugh,
    I’m allergic to just about every meal listed here. :p Eggs, Beans, Oats, Fish, The list seems never ending…
    It seems like broke people have more food allergies too… *shrug*

    • Shannon says

      I am having the same problem. My daughter is allergic to milk, soy, corn, rice, oats, and chocolate. We have tried all kinds of meal plan services and cannot find one that meets her needs. Allergy-free food is so expensive, and her corn allergy requires almost everything organic- natural at the very least. We spend almost an entire paycheck on groceries.

      • Tara says

        Try my newest one, Shannon. There are a few more recipes that fit your requirements in this one. I’d also peruse the others that I have put together. It may give you some more ideas. Links are in the post below. Dealing with food allergies is certainly not easy. My heart goes out to you and I hope you get some new ideas.

  7. JoLynn says

    What a great meal plan! Usually when I see “budget” meal plans they are so heavy on wheat-containing meals I simply walk away frustrate (we are gluten intolerant). Do you have plans for making another week menu plan?

    • Tara says

      I’m going to try to do one once or twice a month. It takes a very long time to price shop multiple stores and figure out doable easy regular meals.

    • Tara says

      Absolutely! Pintos are just what I used here in this particular plan. Sadly though, I’ve already had complaints about using legumes. It seems people just like to complain. :)

      • Kathleen says

        I buy organic pinto and black beans in the cans now that I am older and see the value of having them on hand for quick bean dinners. Stocking up on them whenever you go shopping makes it simple to be prepared. Besides the propane or electric it takes to cook them the old fashioned way just isn’t worth it to me. I guess you have to choose for yourself what things to sacrifice on. Good work! Thanks Tara

  8. DW says

    Nice job putting all this together. Great real life examples. Complainers should just take what they want and leave the rest. Grateful for folks like you who are passionate about sharing information and ideas.

  9. says

    I agree, once you buy your staples, you will be able to make so many meals. I love lentil soup. Lentils, carrots, onions, celery with choice of broth and seasonings. Tastes even better the next day.

    • Tara says

      Yes! Lentil soup is a great budget friendly meal. When I do more of these, it will definitely be in the plan. Aren’t leftovers the best when it comes to soup? :)

  10. says

    This is a great plan! Though we are in Australia our prices on everything are higher :( still, with a family of 7 on a super tight budget this gives me some great ideas to work on! Thanks so much for putting it together!

  11. jes says

    I’d like to see you make a real food budget on $200 a month….it would be a dream to actually be able to spend even $100 a week on groceries.

    • Lin says

      I read this comment and had to pause. There was such a sense of bitterness. I’m not sassing back because honestly…I’ve been there. 3 Special needs kids, with one needing round the clock care dh worked in a grocery store and I saved money, watch the kids and stayed home. Those were bleak and bitter times BUT we made it through and are thriving now. I want to share what I normally did for a family of 5. I handled my meal planning very differently. My budget was 50 dollars a week. So I broke it into 5 dollar increments. My first 5 bought me. The most nutritious , cheapest foods that I could use as bases. So
      My first 5.00 was carrots/onions/potatoes
      My next 5 bucks was Eggs, rice, beans
      My next 5 bucks was Dollar store noodles-spaghetti , can veg/corn/peas.
      My next 5 bucks was flour, sugar, oil
      My next 5 bucks was done gathering these together until I stockpiled. Yeast, Soy Sauce, Spices.
      My next 5 bucks was canned tuna, cheapest straw jam, coffee, tea
      My next 5 bucks was oatmeal and syrup, ketchup/tomatoe paste
      My next 5 bucks frozen boxes of broc/spin. head of cabbage
      My next 5 bucks was celery/apples/bananas
      My next 5 bucks was for a whole chicken.
      any extra $ went to popcorn or more of the supplies.
      Friday night- I used the chicken to make matzoh ball soup. Chicken, carrots, celery, onion, salt. After it simmered, I removed the chicken and took the meat off. One chicken gave me 4 cups of meat. I put them in individual bags and froze them. I used some of my dollar store noodes to add to the meat broth based soup. That with the matzah balls was filling enough. I also served this with homemade bread.
      My homemade bread = 1 bag of flour for 5 loaves. OR 3 loaves, one pan cinn rolls, and 2 dozen biscuits. (flour, salt, oil, sugar, yeast)
      Sat- Did a bean and potatoe stew in crockpot. Sat got Lo Mein (dollar store noodles plus one cup of chicken and an egg fried into it) Sunday was Chicken pot pie…same veggies as the soup, cup of meat, biscuit crust.
      Monday was my Mexican soup night. I never had any matzoh balls left so bascially my leftover soup from Friday I’d add a can of tomatoe paste, chop some cabbage IF I had it, or just the paste, mexican spice, dollar store can of corn. White rice on the side. Tues-we did spagehetti, wednesday Spanish Rice and Beans. (Rice with tomatoe paste and onion. If I had a sale on 3/1 I’d add a can of dollar store peas) Thursday was Fish cakes, rice/corn and the grocery store once again.
      Snacks were popcorn/cheap muffins that I spiced with Jam or cut up banana/
      Breakfast was oatmeal, or pancakes/muffins/cin rolls. Lunch was leftover soups, or baked potota, or noodles and whatever sauce, I could come up with. My eggs were pretty precious so I learned to use soy flour (saved and stockpiled) to mock them up in baking recipes so that I could occasionally treat us with boiled eggs on toast with gravy.
      I always looked for stretchies. If I buy is 2 dollars..for a snack, or baked slices..if I buy applesauce at dollar store. I have apple pancakes, apple muffins, fried pototoe pancakes with applesauce on side, or just plain applesauce as a side. So I bought a lot of applesauce vs fresh apples. Other stretchies was meat. I learned to make a tvp of sorts iwth lentils and bulghur wheat. for about 4 bucks I could make a dutch oven full that I then made veggine meatloaf, veggie meatballs, etc..out off. I couldn’t afford beef and this was good for an alternative. I went to the library FREE and rented miserly moms, dollar stretches etc.and took notes. The single BEST BOOK I ever got was the 3 volume in one..The Tightwad Gazette. I swear by it. Recipes are included and they are amazing. My kids ate homemade, french dressing, onion soup mix, ranch dressing, etc for years for pennies. I learned to make a price book. I never looked at sales flyers because it did me no good to see something on sale at the low price of 1.99 if I knew 1. it would be a one shot meal, 2. would take up too much of my spendable dollars. Far better to grab the never a sale can of tuna and make it stretch from fish cakes to fish chowder to fish casserole. I did bake a lot. I did cook exclusively from scratch. I did spend 50 bucks or less and did alot of shopping at dollar stores, or sale markets, I did spend a lot of time comparing prices iwth my book. I did track when things increased and refused to buy until I went to my second store. One of my friends had a costco card. I saved until I could ask her to pick me up..50lbs of flour 50ls of rice. I bought industrial cans of Ketchup, mayo, beans,.Tomato sauce and portioned them out in my fridge. Yes, it took time. BUT..we lived, we ate well, we ate healthily. I didn’t fry anything (too much oil from my budget) . I did make cakes, and muffins. we always had a snack. I never bought soda, fake drinks (too much sugar out of my food budget) but I made ice tea…and Iced coffee..with much less sugar. Oh gosh…the most important thing was we made it through on 50 bucks a week. Eventually I was given a small freezer, and that helped. I learned ot find old recipes, depression era cooking, etc..and made those recipes..they aren’t popular but they are healthy, filling and tasty. We didn’t go hungry. I didn’t go on Food Stamps, but because of my sons health problems..his formula was 900.00 dollars a lie.. and no I couldn’t breast feed him (he couldn’t digest breastmilk effectively) so I did go on WIC and that was a god send..Peanut butter, milk, formula and a dozen eggs and a bag of beans…Thank G-d! so start with 5 bucks and make a nutrition, best spendability, (what I mean by that is a bag of potatoes, is soup, baked potatoes, stews, latkes, shreded and baked..a lot of mileage out of a bag of potatoes, carrots and onions..they were my top list above corn and peas. Corn you can make into…corn. Carrots? Soup, curry, mashed, baked, roasted. Onion..ah the secret of everything oh and a head of garlic. So start with 5. spend it on paper for the biggest bang and then add another 5 bucks and spend that. It’s a different way of thinking because you will spend the five and think..”gosh if I only had a little more I could add eggs and make 4 meals” rather than ok..”The store is telling me that this is what is on sale, so it is a cheap for me to buy” There is a different between a food that is on sale and food that is cheap, stretchable and that you can get the best use out of …what do you think you should buy? Something on sale that is a one shot or something that you can swami up into 3 meals. Once you do this, you can start using the leftovers to buy ON COUPON after your own best cheap meals..something like Cake, Cake mixes are actually cheaper to buy than to make homemade. so I’d buy one a week..99. less a coupon. WHICH I got from one of my friends as taking the paper was too expensive. Ok..I’m sorry for taking up soooo much room with this post. But if you are struggling, there is a way.. Change your attitude towards meals, think like a chef, make decision based on what you know to be cheap vs what the store tells you they need to get rid off, educate yourself about frugal meals, learn to cook, HUGS..It DOES get better!

    • Tara says

      No, not skipping lunch. I’ve included that in the post. Eat leftovers for lunch when available. When not available, grilled cheese sandwiches, carrots sticks, and fruit. You’ll also have lots of potatoes, oats, and other things that you could get creative with. I hope that helps.

  12. Marjorie says

    Does this budget/total include the meager lunch meals suggested? What about snacks? It seems like this total isn’t really the total of what would actually be consumed in a week for a family of 4. We are a vegan family of 7 and can spend anywhere from $600-$1000 on food a month. I make a meal plan every week complete with 3 meals and 2 snacks daily. This helps cut down on frequent store runs for things like bananas, etc…which really seems to have helped cut down what we spend. If I am not realistic in my meal plan and leave snacks out, it can really throw it off, so I fear leaving lunch out of the plan would be even more detrimental to the budget set.

    • Tara says

      I did not leave out lunch. It is included in the post, and is reflective in the ingredients listed. If someone needed extra food, you could make potato cakes, oat muffins, and lots of other things with these ingredients. I hope that clarifies.

      • Dawna says

        Did the persons who are questioning about no lunch being included read the whole post? Because that was what I thought at first, but you definitely clarified it later in the post :)

      • Marjorie says

        I did read the entire post. I know that not one of my family members could only have a grilled cheese sandwich or any of the other things you suggested for lunch and be full. If planning for leftovers, then extra food would need to be made at each meal in order to have enough for an entire meal. Though aiming for a lower food bill, we should strive for healthy meals as it will only end up costing us more in the long run in doctor bills. A muffin is not a substantial lunch.

  13. emily W. says

    This is great! I shared this on Facebook today. Thank you for all your hard work! And I know it’s a lot of work to not only gather this information but put it up for us. Thanks again!

  14. says

    Great post. When first reading it I thought of different things that would be more economical, especially for left over or multiple use. Then I thought, it is a list to get ideas. Things are different for everyone. Apparently others just want to complain. You did a really nice job on the list. God forbid if you decided to let them know that they could possibly grow some of their own food. But I am sure there would be an excuse for that too.

    • says

      Amen, can’t please everyone.Growing your own food is an awesome way to save money. Ugh when winter came I missed going out to the garden! Tomato sandwiches, squash, spinach lettuce and somuch more. Organic and free!! I used scraps to feed the soil, saved seeds for this year. If you live near a shop rite, they carry inexpensive grass fed beef and chicken, plus the annual can-can sale. Totally love this site! I will be sharing on Facebook!

      • Tara says

        Seriously! I LONG for spring and all this snow to melt so I can start digging in the dirt again. There’s nothing like fresh garden produce. I never knew vegetables could taste so good until we started growing our own.

        Thanks for the tip on Shop Rite. I don’t have one of those near me, but it might be a good name to include in the next post to give people options. Thanks for commenting.

  15. Kristin says

    Thank you so much for taking the time to put this together! We spend about $85-$100 a week on food for five and I’ve long been annoyed with “real food people” who seem to not understand that there are some of us out there who do not spend $700/month on organic, grass-fed everything. We have neither a Trader Joe’s nor an Aldi, so I have to make do mostly with Walmart. But thank you again for this great info!

    • Tara says

      I think MANY are in the same boat as you. I will try to price shop Walmart next time to see what options they have.

  16. Rebecca says

    Great post! We are a family of 5 and varying foods we can eat. 3 of them eat meat, 1 is a vegetarian and I am a vegan (allergic to dairy and meat) so meal plans can be challenging. I plant a garden every year and freeze, dehydrate, and can food all year long so during the winter and spring we have less we need to buy. I manage to have a grocery budget of 200 a month (could be 100 a month but I stock up for “just in case” as I have needed to help others out with groceries from time to time) I really liked the menus that you listed and I will be incorporating some of them into our meal plans. Kudos to you my friend. Be Blessed

  17. Jessica says

    Manda – that one income you have coming in is probably the reason you get $375 a month. I would love to spend $150 a week on food too, but can’t. We are one of those families that are just above qualifying for food stamps or any assistance at all. Be grateful you get $375….so many don’t that are broke and eating the cheapest things they can buy after bills are paid.

  18. says

    Thanks for posting! These are great recipes! People look at me luck I’m nuts when I tell them that my grocery budget is $65 each week for my family of 5 and we eat healthy. While I can’t afford organic for that price, I cook without processed foods. It takes a lot of planning ahead and shopping based on what’s on sale. The blog “Money Saving Mom” has been a HUGE help. (

    • Tara says

      Good for you Carrie! I’d love to have you share with us some samples of what you make for your family. We could all use some wisdom from someone who is successfully feeding their family on a frugal price. Thanks for commenting.

    • Tara says

      I’m sorry if you were bothered by the title. This is not meant to be offensive, negative, or condescending in any way. If you read the post in its entirety, I never put those who are struggling in a negative light, never encourage guilt on their part or anything of the sort. I encourage grace and people just doing the best they can. I myself have been in the category of “broke” many times and would not have seen the title as offensive. I can not change the title now because it would change the entire link, but I will take it into consideration on future posts. Thanks for the comment.

  19. says

    Do you have any ideas for someone who works away from the home and doesn’t have access to be able to heat up leftovers? That’s a constant struggle with my husband. He buys Aldi brand protein bars and eats those which are ok budget wise, but I’d love some ideas of something better for him. Great blog, I’ll definitely be back!

  20. says

    If you have a Super Target around, keep an eye on their meat department. When it is close to the sell by date, they place $3 off coupons on the meat. I have bought many packages of grass fed meat this way. If I catch a package that is a day or two before the sell by date without a coupon, I ask for the manager and he will give me a coupon for the meat.

    • Steve says

      Our neighborhood grocery store (formerly a SuperValu) also marks down meat substantially on the sell-by date. It’s not hard to buy muscle cuts for $4/pound or less. Interestingly, I never see their chicken (case-ready Tyson) get this treatment. But it is a help if you can time your shopping.

  21. Lindsey says

    This is such a great tool! Thank you so much for taking the time and for the effort I’m sure it took to put this together. I will definitely use this in the coming weeks.

  22. says

    We have 13 children and I have made a necessary study of how to eat cheaply. For many years, I put beans in the crock pot before we left for church. When we came home our lunch, costing about a dollar, was done!

  23. says

    I tried this with my family of 11 this week… We loved it! Yummy recipes, and we spent a little over $200 for a week for 11 people! Thank you SOOOO much. I had really been struggling to feed my family on our budget, but now I can do it! I’ll be linking this on my blog.

    • Tara says

      Wow Adrienne! You rock woman! That’s super impressive for that amount of mouths to feed. I’m so glad to hear some real life feedback. Thanks for the link too. :)

      • says

        I should also mention that we are GF, and sometimes DF, but I loved that this menu wasn’t heavy on grain stuff so I was able to make substitutions for cheap (like fried potatoes instead of toast for breakfast). I also added rice to almost every meal that didn’t mention it to help fill people up. Adjustments can be made. Thanks again!

  24. LeAnn says

    Hi! Great post! I am so sorry for the way people act on here.
    People, please use this list as a guide for inspiration. She isnt your personal shopper or your family’s private nutritionist. Fill in the blanks, I know if some one says their kid eats red peppers raw for a snack, I subsitute something I know my kid will eat. And yes, 2 whole food muffins will last for hrs in a kids tummy, and their parents too. Whole food…thats the catch. My husband eats lentils and couscous for lunch with a side of pineapple its about 4$/day-3 days/week.
    I will be applying these wonderful ideas to my family’s real food list. Our budget is $125-$150 for a family of 3, my daughter has mild sensory problems. It depends on what I have on hand and if I happen on a great article like this. This week I can feel relaxed..I know I can come in on the $125 side!
    THANK YOU for all your hard work and dedication to helping others.

    • Tara says

      Well aren’t you just the sweetest, LeAnn. Thank you for the encouragement. I’m glad you’ll be able to relax a bit this week. :)

  25. Deb M says

    Great job! As a nurse I believe that many of our health problems could be solved by limiting ourselves to real food. This is the way my grandmother taught me to cook. Those who find problems with the plan should start using common sense and find alternatives that fit their situation. Ditto LeAnn’s post.

  26. Amy B says

    It is amazing that there are still people like yourself that want to give of their limited time freely to help strangers. Thank you. Thank you.

    I find it very frustrating that we live in a world surrounded by so many complainers full of negativity. We all have something to feel blessed about regardless of our situations- our health, our children, a warm safe home, a hot shower, fresh fruits, etc.

    I am thankful for you and your willingness to want to help others outside your home. To take your time to educate and share is wonderful.
    Keep doing what you are doing and try to focus on all the positive comments knowing if you help at least one family then you will have been successful.

  27. Nichole says

    Thank you for this post! I’m on a tight food budget ($100/month for 2 people) and I think the thing that makes it most difficult is shopping for fewer people, but this looks like an easily adaptable plan that doesn’t depend too much on bulk buying to get costs down, which I just cannot do. We’re also light lunch eaters, and generally already do what you suggest for lunch (leftovers, or a sandwich with fruits/veggies, or–hate admitting this–a cheap, easy to prepare food like hotdogs). Many “budget friendly” meal plans are way above what I consider a strict budget to look like, this one is reasonable and real!

  28. linz says

    Thank you so much for all of the time and effort you put into this! I am being tested for celiacs today and have been discouraged about how eating GF is going to effect our budget. This post was an encouragement that it can be done. So thankful God allowed me to find your site! You have been a blessing:-)

    • Tara says

      Some Aldi carry have grass fed beef. Mine doesn’t, but I have heard from people all over other states that claim they do. I have bought decent bacon there too. I prefer Trader Joes for chicken. They carry organic free range for a good price. Hope that helps.

  29. Kyla says

    II cannot believe some of the comments here. And, it is VERY possible to spend this amount and eat healthy! My family of 4 (3 fully grown MEN and myself) were able to make do on about $200 for an entire month. There were a lot of meatless meals, but your body is better off without it anyway. We were able to eat fresh fruit and veggies and have meat, milk, butter, eggs, etc. It is very possible. You have to think outside of the box. Make a meal of soup, but make a big batch to have for lunch the next day or another dinner. The possibilities are endless. If you would like help meal planning please email me and we can figure out what your family’s needs are and I can give you some meal ideas. My email is I will do my best to respond in a timely fashion.

  30. says

    I think if i was starting all over, then yes your amounts would seem real to me. I try to keep my food budget (for food being consumed that week) under $100 a week, and use an additional $100 a month to stock up from the loss leader sales. No Aldi or Trader Joes here, I go to Smiths Food & Drug (I refuse to buy anything other than occasional toiletries, some yarn, and occasional produce at Walmart, even with Price Match, their food items are NOT comparable in quality) for perhaps 90% of my grocery shopping, the rest I do at another store Jubilee. I do get eggs from my neighbor, her chickens give her 18 a day. I shop the loss leaders from the weekly grocery store ads (today I’ll go get the milk at 2/$4, it is $3.19 normally and I’ll get 6gallons for the week). Jubilee this week has bags of produce (fill it fresh they call it) you can fill for $10 — its worth it just for the variety you can get (last Friday I saw a lady buy full bags of avocados – normally $1-$1.50 each, pears, peppers, and pomegranates), I bought apples, pears, bell peppers, 3 avocados, and 2 pomegranates. Twice each year, both Smiths and Jubilee have caselot sales where I buy the bulk of our canned foods for the year, plus laundry detergent and toilet paper (36-count case of tp is about $6.50-7; 15-count paper towels is the same price, I will use about 2 cases of paper towels each year, and 10 cases of tp per year)m also 20 pound sacks of beans & rice, and 25 pound sacks of flour & sugar. 2 years ago we began buying grass & grain-fed beef directly from the butcher shop (steaks, roasts, soup bones, stew meat, and lots of ground burger); I also watch for good sales on chicken and pork. I always buy an extra ham or turkey on holidays when the prices are good. It is nice to have an extra freezer to store food in ( I buy bread on sale and freeze it for the in-between times of making it), but not necessary.
    I feed a family of 7 (though I cook for 10-12 people because my 12 yo son eats so much & I do like leftovers) on that $100 (or less if I can manage it) a week. I cook mainly from scratch, because my hubby is badly allergic to MSG (its in EVERYTHING), and I have some food sensitivities too. I do allow my children to eat cold cereal sometimes, but pancakes, waffles, muffins, German pancakes, toast & eggs are common breakfasts, sometimes with bacon. Lunches can be egg salad, tuna salad, sliced ham, ham or turkey lunch meat, pb&homemade jam sandwiches; leftovers, and sometimes I have kefir & fruit smoothies.
    Dinner/suppers are lots of soups& stews (meat and veggie), pasta dishes, casseroles, Mexican/Italian/Chinese foods. The sides are fresh iceberg green salads with garden veggies if in season, steamed fresh or frozen veggies, and sometimes homemade corn bread, biscuits, or bread sticks. I will share my recipes if anyone wants them, or you can find some of them in a new Fb page called “What’s for dinner tonight” (, but I’ve got too many in my repertoire to share here. Last night was Tamale Pie (browned1 pound burger with an diced onion and half of green bell pepper, added 1 teaspoon each cumin and chili pepper, then added in 2 cans (8 ounce) tomato sauce, 4 cans of black beans (rinsed and drained), 1 can of sweet yellow corn, and 1 can of black olives (chopped — these are an occasional treat), mix it all together and spread in 9×13 baking pan, then topped with a doubled recipe of corn bread (2 cups flour, 1-1/2 cups cornmeal, 2Tablespoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 cups of milk, 2 eggs, 4 Tablespoons oil or melted shortening, mix together and pour in 7×9 pan and bake at 425F for 22-25 minutes — half the recipe and bake in 8×8 pan), then bake at 425F for 25-30 minutes, or until cornbread is golden-brown and filling is heated through. We had a lettuce, avocado & diced apple salad with it, and drank milk (kids had koolaid, I allow them Kool-aid at dinners sometimes only otherwise its milk or water). Sunday was Roasted Vegetable Lasagna with pesto & goat cheese (for my birthday), Saturday was Tacos, Today will be Vichyssoise (Potato Leek soup) if I see organic leeks at the store, otherwise it might be baked Chicken drumsticks and foil-wrapped baked diced potatoes with onions, garlic & butter or Hamburger Vegetable Stew. Some nights are easy meals of a hamburger gravy (homemade white sauce cooked using browned burger drippings, minced onions and diced celery) over brown rice or mashed potatoes, with steamed veggies.
    Snacks are fruit (apples, oranges, pears, bananas, occasional pomegranates, and when in season selling for good prices, strawberries, blueberries, grapes, peaches, nectarines, apricots, and plums), wheat bread toast, yogurt, kefir smoothies, cheese sticks or sliced cheese (fabulous with sliced apples or pears), muffins, homemade popsicles in summer, carrot/ celery sticks, and leftovers.

  31. bill says

    It depends on where you live, of course. Growing up in the Midwest, there were always people who had excess from their vegetable gardens. We live a relatively urban area now, and have found that some Asian and Mexican grocery stores have significantly lower prices on certain items. Although we are at an income level where we could spend a lot more on food, my wife and I spend about $75 – 100/week for both us. Case in point: buy a five pound chuck roast, put it in the smoker for three hours and finish it a dutch oven. With a 30% fat burn off it still yield 56 ounces of meat. In the dutch oven we put vegetables we grow ourselves and eat about four ounces of the meat each. Next day, pulled beef sliders. next day, beef enchiladas. Skim off the fat, and the rich broth makes an awesome gravy or soup. And there is still meat left over. We have about a fifth of an acre, but we have 12 blueberry bushes, six goji berry bushes, five asian pear trees, an Italian plum tree and a peach tree. We grow Italian kale, herbs, lettuces, tomatoes, kiwis, cucumbers, beets, carrots, strawberries, snap beans, bush beans, garlic, green onions, Korean radishes, hot peppers, sweet potatoes, chard, etc. What we don’t eat fresh, we freeze, dry, barter for salmon or give to the food bank.

    While I understand people in poverty can’t do what we do, there are ways to eat well and eat very cheaply. A whole chicken or a cheaper cut of meat in a crock pot can make four or five meals. Eggs are super nutritious and canp be prepared in many different ways. Except for coffee in the morning, we drink exclusively water. And we take a vitamin supplement everyday.

    It’s not hard to eat well and cheaply. What grinds me is people on food stamps that also have the latest cell phone or trick fingernails.

  32. Jenn says

    Thanks so much for sharing! There are so many great ideas! Although it is easy to be envious of your prices the ideas can help anyone no matter where you live. Thanks again!

  33. Karen says

    Thank you. I look forward to looking through your site more. We are a large family that has been on food stamps for quite some time. We have prayed and worked to get off of them, and just this last week we found out we now do not qualify. While this is a blessing, it also is a little bit frightening to lose the $400 that we had been receiving monthly. That $400 lasted 1/2 of the month, and then we used $400-500 of our own money for the rest of the month. Since my husband doesn’t get paid for another ten days, and I do not make much with my regular babysitting, we are really pinching our pennies to make ends meet for the next few days….and of course that continues each week now. I am just on the hunt for more frugal menus to add variety. I appreciate your heart for those with tight finances, and for not putting down those on food stamps. It has caused stress to me to read the mean things that others have to say regarding those on food stamps. I know that they were not owed to us, and we do not buy junk food very much at all….primarily for birthdays. It has been a hard road, and I am thankful for the LORD bringing us though those times. I know He will continue!


  1. […] This meal plan is not gluten-free. If you are looking for a fabulous gluten-free meal plan with a shopping list, I encourage you to check out the Nourishing Home. I promise, you won’t be disappointed. If you’re looking for a meal plan on a strict budget, I recommend checking out We Got Real’s monthly frugal meal plans. […]

  2. […] This meal plan is not gluten-free. If you are looking for a fabulous gluten-free meal plan with a shopping list, I encourage you to check out the Nourishing Home. I promise, you won’t be disappointed. If you’re looking for a meal plan on a strict budget, I recommend checking out We Got Real’s monthly frugal meal plans. […]

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