What does a family of 5 eat while saving money and eating healthy? How do you celebrate birthdays and deal with food restrictions on a budget? Here is exactly what we bought and what we ate on our fourth week of #RealFoodCheap.
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Real Food Cheap: Week 4
Our family of 5 big eaters eats real food on a $90/week grocery budget, or about $360/month.
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We share weekly updates here, but I also post to Instagram and Facebook throughout the week with the hashtag #RealFoodCheap.
Birthdays on a Budget
This week, we celebrated a birthday and hosted out of town guests. We aren’t big spenders when it comes to birthdays. In the past, we’ve done everything from not buying any gifts (cheers for grandparents who mail gifts and for preschoolers who don’t notice!), to thrifting all of their gifts, to letting our kids choose between a birthday party and gifts.
Once, we got our son a bike. Since that was basically his only gift, we created an elaborate scavenger hunt to make the memory extra special.
Birthday parties can get expensive, and we want our kids to decide what they really care about instead of feeling entitled to everything.
I’m positive no parent raises their kid perfectly, so we’ll see how this worked in 20 years after mine go to therapy.
A few frugal ways we celebrate each kid:
- Decorations when they wake up in the morning – simple, fun. Right now it mostly means streamers taped across their bedroom doorway so they have to break through it in the morning.
- Birthday kid gets to choose breakfast, lunch, and dinner on their birthday
- And of course, they get to choose their cake/dessert
This Week’s Birthday Menu:
Because my kids eat mostly real food, their birthday food choices are typically junk food. I tell myself it’s a compliment that these feel like special-occasion foods. Whatever makes me feel better.
Aldi brand frosted flakes with almond milk
Vanilla ice cream for dessert
Aldi’s gluten-free chicken nuggets
Romaine lettuce salad with goat cheese
For his birthday party, we made this sour cream pound cake (the best) in two round cake pans a few weeks ago and froze it so we had less to do on party day.
Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free
New curveball this week. In general, we try to avoid a lot of gluten. We are not allergic, but we have a mild intolerance. This week, I had to crack down on that.
And sometimes our family has to avoid dairy. We’ve had a lot more than usual the past few months, and we all started exhibiting symptoms that tell me we need to be more careful.
We were strictly gluten-free and dairy-free for many years on a tight budget, so this is nothing new. But you might see some weird allergy-friendly ingredients in our grocery hauls.
We ended last week $19 under budget, so this week we had $109 for groceries. Here is what we bought:
15-oz canned coconut milk – $1.99/each
Dairy-free yogurt (almond and coconut milk) – $2.99
15-oz canned pumpkin (scratch and dent) – $.49/each
Broccoli pearls (markdown) – $1.99/lb
Multi-grain Cheerios (scratch and dent) – $2.29/family-size box
Total spent at Kroger $15
Kirkland sharp cheddar cheese – $2.50/lb
Kirkland colby jack cheese – $2.50/lb
Organic romaine hearts – $4.99 for 6 hearts
Frozen fruit blend – $1.92/lb
Udi’s gluten-free bread – 4.99/loaf (these loaves are larger than what I find at Kroger or Aldi! I hate paying this much for bread, but sometimes convenience wins)
Total spent at Costco $35
Gala apples – $1.33/lb
Butter – $2.56/lb
Goat cheese – $1.99/8-oz pkg
Unsweetened almond milk – $1.89/half gal
Eggs – $.88/doz
Bananas – $.44/lb
Whole carrots – $.49/lb
Celery – $1.29/bunch
Grape tomatoes – $1.69/pint
Half & half – $1.69/qrt
Hummus – $1.89/8-oz
Compromise & Birthday Foods
I lost my receipt so I don’t have exact prices for all of these. But whatever, it’s just the junk food, and I don’t recommend buying it anyway.
We bought these for my son’s birthday wish list and for a social gathering I hosted one evening this week. I provided assorted dips and snacks.
Gluten-free chicken nuggets
Ice cream (clean ingredients!) – $4.19/48-oz
Total spent at Aldi $46
Total spent this week: $96
($13 left for next week)
Since real life doesn’t usually look like the cute menu plans we try to make at the beginning of the week, here is what we actually ate on our fourth week of Real Food Cheap.
We had green smoothies, apples, or frozen fruit a few times between meals, and we frequently eat a fourth small meal.
What we ate:
The kids took care of themselves today, so they had some cereal (our hidden stash in the top of the pantry), apples, etc.
I ate “brunch”:
Chicken with spring mix salad, organic dried cranberries (super cheap in Kroger’s scratch and dent section), almonds, goat cheese, and homemade balsamic vinaigrette (a recipe I have yet to perfect – if you have any you love, please share them in the comments!)
Free pizza at a community event
My family had chicken, rice, salad, and chips and salsa
I spent the evening at a surprise party for a friend and ate a salad there
Demolished the tail end of the clearance cereal. I promise, I will start feeding them better in the mornings.
Brunch again – spring mix salad with scrambled eggs and toast. Weird but good. Kids did not complain that I fed myself better than I fed them.
Sandwiches, salad, and frozen fruit
More salad – I bought like two lbs of it, so I’m kind of committed until it’s gone.
Spaghetti squash with simple homemade pumpkin marinara (marinara plus pumpkin puree. Done. So good.)
View this post on Instagram
Do you like scrambled eggs? I prefer mine over easy. But I have kids with opinions and only so much time for cooking. So we scramble them 9 times out of 10. This kind has goat cheese cooked into it, and it’s topped with chives 👌. Not the kids’ favorite, so I guess we all have to learn to compromise 😜. . . . ••• How do you like your eggs? . . . #eggs #breakfast #goatcheese #realfoodcheap
Toasted Oatmeal and Soft Scrambled Eggs from Pretty Simple Cooking (a new favorite cookbook!)
Smoky Lentil Stew (from the same cookbook – seriously, I love this thing)
Leftover lentil stew
Toasted oatmeal, smoothies, and 3-Ingredient Pumpkin Pancakes (1/2 pumpkin + 2 eggs + pinch pumpkin spice)
Leftover lentil stew and salad
Veggies & hummus
Pumpkin pie hummus & apples
And a friend brought some delicious samosas!
The rest of the week was full of birthdays and house guests, so I didn’t record what we ate. However, we stuck to our budget and are ready for week 5!
Week 4 Thoughts
Birthdays and food restrictions on a budget: these have been a bigger part of our lives than I ever would have guessed or preferred. We’ll see how next week goes as we finish the rest of the dairy in the house and revisit our favorite alternatives.
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In the pumpkin pancakes is it 1/2 a can or 1/2 a cup pumpkin?
1/2 cup 🙂
Just curious…what’s toasted oatmeal? Do you have a recipe?
Basically, you melt butter in the pan, then add the oats and toast them for a few minutes before adding the milk/water. It adds a lovely depth of flavor, and helps us use less sweetener because the oats are already so flavorful. The resulting texture is like if oatmeal and granola had a baby.
I don’t have the recipe on my site, because I’ve been following the one in Pretty Simple Cooking almost exactly. However, I’m sure a quick internet search will give you a version of toasted oatmeal!