Jul 2, 2012

What Can I Get For $90?

This week I'm doing something a little different than my usual posting of my menu. I am opening up and sharing how my new weekly budget for food and normal household purchases has changed and how those changes have effected my grocery purchases and menu.

The above photo is every single item of food that I brought home with me from the store yesterday evening. Sorry its not a better photo!

So, without further ado, I have restricted my grocery budget to what I feel is a scant $90 a week for our family of five.

I didn't title this post "Feeding a family of 5 on $90 a week" though because I am "shopping" from my pantry/freezer some to make some of our meals. However, before you think that that isn't fair, I am going to continue with this new budget even as my pantry full of previous purchases deminishes. So, stick with me as this challenge continues and I share my experiences.

I spent time throughout last week laboring over a menu that would be cheap, while still including fruit, veggies, and meat. I wanted cheap ingredients that can stretch for many meals. I also wanted to keep healthy meals in mind. On shopping day, I went to Aldi, Hyvee, and Target. I went with a $90 budget in mind and hoped/prayed that I would be able to pull it off. I spent a grand total of $90.22, needless to say, I felt very proud of myself for this accomplishment considering how much I purchased. I didn't even cut every pleasure purchase that I could have. My grocery budget previously had been around $160 where I was buying some organic, lots of snacks like peanuts, raisins, granola bars, and more specialty gluten free products.

What helped me stick to the budget as close as possible:
  • Write a detailed list of what I need and how much of each item I need; I couldn't have done this without first making a detailed daily menu for each meal and snack I planned to prepare; take pantry items into consideration.
  • Add up the prices of the items I put in the cart as I add them so I know a rough total of my purchases. (Take a calculator if necessary but I just stuck to rounding the prices.)
  • When I got to the car, I subtracted the total of what I had spent from the $90 total I was planning on spending. That way I knew how much I was able to spend at the next store.
What I purchased:

  • 3 lb bag of Pink Lady apples 3.99
  • 40 ct box of quart freezer bags 1.99
  • 6 - 8 oz cans of tomato sauce @ .29 each = 1.74
  • 17 oz bottle extra virgin olive oil 3.49
  • 2 - 13 oz bags of round white tortilla chips @ 1.19 each = 2.38
  • 12 ct box yellow corn taco shells .99
  • 3 lb bag of long grain white rice 1.69 (that's .56 a lb!)
  • 4 doz cartons of large white eggs @ 1.29 each = 5.16
  • 1 lb smoked deli-style ham 3.29
  • 3 - 8 oz chunks sharp cheddar cheese @ 1.79 each = 5.37
  • 1/2 gallon bottle sweetened vanilla almond milk 2.49
  • 27 ct package of size 5 diapers 4.99 (that's .18 a diaper)
  • 3.36 lbs of split chicken breasts with discounted price of .62 a lb (!!) = 2.07 (this was due to a discount she forgot to give me and therefore got further discounted due to her mistake which = extra blessing of cheap chicken for me ☺)
  • 75 oz bottle of automatic dishwasher gel 2.49
  • 2.35 lbs ground beef @ 2.99 lb = 7.03 (Unfortunately, I was unaware that hamburger was on sale at Hyvee and missed out on that since I'd already purchased hamburger at ALDI but it was only slightly less than the 2.99/lb that I paid so I haven't lost any sleep over it . ☺)
Total spent after tax = $52.08

  • A .5 oz bottle eucalyptus oil 4.78 (I read that fleas hate the smell...)
  • 24 oz bag of Bob's Red Mill whole grain brown rice flour 3.48
  • Cilantro .97 per bundle
  • Green onions .58 per bundle
  • 32 oz bottle original rice milk 1.88 (for cooking not drinking)
  • 4.4 lb bag Maseca corn flour 3.48
  • 3 - 16 oz bags frozen mixed vegetables @ 1.28 each = 3.48
  • A .05lb jalapeno pepper @ 1.99/lb = .10
  • 1/2 gallon vanilla rice milk 3.28
Total spent after tax = $23.70

  • 1 gallon 1 % milk 3.59
  • 1/2 gallon whole milk 1.99
  • 12 can box Sierra Mist - on sale - 2.75
  • 3L bottle Ozarka water .99
  • 6 oz box Hot Tamales 1.00
  • 6 oz box Sweetarts 1.00
  • Birthday card for my sister-in-law .99
  • 3.5 lb bag dry cat food 3.59
I shop at Target because we get an employee discount, a Redcard (which is just a debit card with zero fees) discount, and a small discount for bringing my own bags.

Total spent after tax = $14.44

What I plan to cook this week having only the food I have purchases and the food I currently have on hand to work with:

  • Grits (I have in my pantry)
  • Oatmeal (I have in my pantry)
  • Pancakes (I have a mix in my pantry)
The kids like to top all of the above with either honey or peanut butter which I have in my pantry.

  • Bean and cheese nachos (have a 2 lb bag of pinto beans I'll be using all week, and we have one bag of dairy free cheese to stretch all week)
  • 2 days of beef and rice soup (using hamburger I purchased and soup base for the broth I have in my pantry as well as brown rice I have in my pantry and vegetables in my fridge)
  • 2 days of chicken and egg fried rice
  • 2 days of omelets with ham, cheese, and onions (our family eats a dozen eggs for this meal)
We have a large bottle of salsa that we just opened which will be used all week. I also have ketchup and mustard on hand. If we need to add more food, I also have potatoes left from last week that haven't been cooked. We really like to make them into oven fries with cajun seasoning. We won't go hungry! ☺

  • 3 nights of bean burritos with sauted onions, Spanish rice
  • 2 nights beef and bean tacos (had one box of tacos on hand and bought the other this week, burger I purchased stretched with beans), vegetable, dessert (have a box of brownies on hand, and ingredients on hand to make peanut butter cookies)
  • Pulled pork soft tacos, Spanish rice (our 4th of July meal, have the roast on hand, will freeze leftovers for future meal)
  • Quesadillas using leftover chicken or turkey (turkey from last week), vegetable, dessert

While this may seem to have been made way easy for me by having such a stocked pantry and freezer, it was still a challenge. This week I plan to:
  • Check all the sales flyers and plan meals with sale items.
  • Re-check my pantry and freezer to see what items I've stocked there (leftovers) or were purchased on sale (like the chicken which will not all be eaten this week).
  • And, follow my tips at the top of the post such as making a list and keeping track of the prices of items I put in my cart.

I hope some of this information is helpful! I look forward to sharing as I learn more and get better at my new budget and preparing my menu to match it!

What are your thoughts? Any helpful advice?

P.S. I know, I know... We probably don't make the same food choices that you might make. And, I may have gotten better choices at other stores. My blog post will double as a price reference for what I paid and where I paid it so I can make even better price comparisons in the future. ☺

Linked up at:

Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways
PhotobucketGrowing Home


  1. We are a family of 5 and my grocery budget is $90 as well. It was $75 for years but in the last year, I had to raise it due to stores' raising their prices and our family's needs changing. I usually try to keep it way under $90 and pocket the rest for fun stuff (or not fun stuff, like a new filter for our refrigerator). I purchase all HBA items, cleaners, cat food, (used to purchase diapers) and household things with that $90, besides the food. I have a very well stocked pantry, due to catching sales with coupons and we buy our beef and pork from local farmers, a side a time (usually do those purchases in the winter, every year). So, I shop from my storage food all the time and we replenish when we can, depending on sales and such. We can't afford organic but we do include veggies fresh from the garden (I can a lot and freeze our veggies) and fruits and grains and I make bread some times. I make all our snacks, not relying on pre-packaged but I make muffins and such with fruits that are in season, I make from scratch cookies and brownies. I can not master scratch cakes so I do buy a mix for that (mine usually don't rise and are a little dry). It IS doable and it's actually fun...I use my calculator as I shop, go from a very strict list and try to see just how much I can get on very little. I love the challenge! So I say....you go!!!

    1. Thanks Rebecca for your encouragement! I know that I'll get better at it and it was fun! Right now I am unable to have an "in ground" garden because we rent and I'm not very good at producing much from a pot, LOL. Also, we don't have a large freezer or chest freezer BUT when we do, I would love to start buying a side of meat like your family is doing. I make muffins and most dessert from scratch but we have to eat gluten free and dairy free (for only two family members) so I haven't mastered making gluten free bread yet. However, surprisingly, some cakes have turned out well. I really appreciate you sharing how you make it work and even spend under budget! ☺

  2. We are a family of five as well and my biweekly budget is about $150. My pantry is LOW now because this came about because of some unexpected bills, and I've been trying to get a good grasp on it, but I'm floundering slightly. lol I've kept it in the budget, but some weeks we are eating VERY lean. VERY. :P I am interested in keeping an eye on this series! Stopping by from the Growing Home link up!

    1. Hi Dusty! Thanks for visiting! Do you have an ALDI where you live?

  3. Great post!
    Do you mind if I include a link to here on this list?

  4. way to go Shari! Is there a costco or sam's club nearby you guys? Last fall I did extensive price comparisons b/n sams club and all the different grocery stores in town. There isn't any store (not even walmart) that can beat sams' prices for frozen fruits and veggies. So I found it worthwhile to renew my membership. I also discovered this week that I can get a 6lb can of tomato sauce for around $2. That really helped as I can turn it into spaghetti, pizza, and enchilada sauces as needed. I love that tomato lasts so long in the fridge I don't have to freeze it right away! Don't know if you guys like coconut or not, but I found a recipe on how to make your own coconut milk from a can of coconut cream. It's cheaper to buy at the oriental market than any other alternative milks from around town. The can costed me 1.99 and made a half gallon vs 2.88 for any other milk at the store. Plus the kids love getting the extra cream on their cereal. Phil isn't a coconut fan, so I'll have to keep getting something else for him, but I like that it's almost a dollar back in my pocket! I haven't been able to keep up on your blog this summer with the morning sickness and all, but hopefully with the second trimester just around the corner I'll get back to it :)

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