Can a family of 5 big eaters eat real food for $90/week? This is our first week of #RealFoodCheap and how we prepared for it. Learn how to eat real food cheap!


Can a family of 5 big eaters eat real food for $90/week? This is our first week of #RealFoodCheap and how we prepared for it. Learn how to eat real food cheap! From #realfood #onabudget


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There’s a squirmy tension between saving money and eating healthy. If you care about your body or the bodies of the people eating at your table, you don’t want to fill them with junk in the name of saving money.

But if you are desperately trying to save money, you can’t afford to be trendy, no matter how smart it sounds to eat local kale, grassfed meat, and free-range organic eggs.

Maybe you’re trying to pay off debt. You’re on Baby Step 2, and you know that debt could go away forever if you could just get your act together and pay it already.

Maybe you are just trying to make ends meet. You have a goal: survive without living on freeze-dried noodles and peanut butter sandwiches. I know how you feel. and I know you can do it!

Or maybe you have a dream you’re working towards. You’re no longer in survival mode, but you have some choices to make. Your dreams require saving a lot of money. You want to be intentional with how you care for your body and your goals.

#RealFoodCheap is for you.

Our goal is to show you how a family of 5 big eaters can eat whole food on $90/week, or about $360/month.

The truth is that is where a lot of us sit. We can’t afford to get trendy about food right now – as good, ethical, and fun as that is.

We just need to eat whole food, and we need to do it cheaply.

I will share weekly updates here, but I will also post to Instagram and Facebook throughout the week with the hashtag #RealFoodCheap.



If you prefer watching to reading, here’s an excerpt from the Facebook Live I did about preparing for Week 1 of Real Food Cheap.

This is the menu plan printable I mentioned, and scroll down to see our menu for this week!

I do a Facebook Live every Sunday at 6 PM CST on our Facebook page. Some weeks we cook a recipe and some weeks we talk shop.

Join us! We’d love to have you.


Real Food Cheap Guidelines

Here are the rules:

  • Basic whole foods (fruit, veggies, chicken, beef, eggs, yogurt, butter, oats, etc.)
  • Mostly whole grains
  • Mostly “healthy” fats
  • Plenty of vegetables
  • Low-gluten
  • Very little processed sugar (mostly maple syrup, honey, and coconut sugar)
  • Healthy balance of protein, carbs, and fats
  • 80/20 rule – 80% of what we eat is good and mostly nourishing. 20% is pizza and cake at birthday parties, cold cereal, etc.

We will try to follow these guidelines while sticking to a grocery budget of $90 a week.

Week 1

This is our first week of #RealFoodCheap, and this is how we prepared for it.

$20 This Week

Today we have a fairly well-stocked kitchen. I don’t want to do this challenge and just burn through our pantry and freezer stash. This isn’t a Pantry Challenge, and that wouldn’t mean we were doing this on $90/week.

So I went through the kitchen and added up the main items we have on hand.

  • Chicken breasts $1.69/lb – $20 worth
  • Ground beef $1.79/lb – $18 worth
  • Butternut Squash (bought in bulk) LINK – $15 worth
  • Dried Beans – $6 worth
  • Cheese – $4 worth
  • Maple Syrup – $7 worth

Obviously, that is not everything in my kitchen. I also have rice, spices, some flour, baking supplies, frozen fruit, a smattering of canned goods, etc. But the above ingredients are the higher dollar items that we’ll use almost immediately and certainly within the next month.

They add up to $70, so I’m deducting them from this week’s budget.

This week, we will have $20 to buy all of our food.





Grocery List

Even though we have those staples on hand, we need a few items at the store.

This week, I plan to buy:

  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Veggies
  • And hopefully, we will have some extra for any sales or markdowns

Birthday Cake & House Guests

My son’s birthday is soon, so we will use the eggs and most of the butter for his birthday cake. Normally I make a real food version of wacky cake, which is a really inexpensive way to make a cake.

But this year, I’m trying to pull off a pound cake, which is our favorite. We’ll see if I regret it by the end of the month.

We also have his birthday celebration, houseguests, a camping trip, and a few other events in the next month that we have to plan for.


Menu Plan

Here is what we plan to eat this week.

Since what we plan and what we actually eat end up very different, I will share nearly every meal on Instagram and Facebook Stories, and I will share a recap here on the blog next week.



Eggs, toast

Muffins, Apples, Peanut Butter


Smashed White Bean Salad Sandwiches (from Pretty Simple Cooking – affiliate link) (part of their Facebook cooking club!)


Snacky lunch (veggies, cheese, olives, pickles, muffin, fruit)


Cajun Beef & Rice (from Dinner for a Dollar)

Broccoli Parmesan Noodles (from Dinner for a Dollar)

Salad with Chicken

Tuscan Bean & Fennel Soup, a.k.a. “Pizza Soup” (from Pretty Simple Cooking)

Leftovers 2-3 times


dinner for a dollar cover


Simple Food Prep

A little bit of food prep saves us a lot of money. Depending on the week, I may take a “Kitchen Day” and dedicate one day to feed prep. This makes the rest of the week’s meals faster and simpler.

Realistically, I don’t take a whole day. I work, run a home, and homeschool 3 kids. Sometimes the best I can do is throw food at the table at the end of the day.

So more often, I do 1 quick food prep thing in the morning or evening of every day. My menu plan printable provides a space for me to jot down whatever I need to make that day to prepare for the next meal.

For example, If we are are eating Cajun Beef & Rice on Tuesday, and I’m adding red beans to it, I’ll write “cook beans” on Monday’s prep work. Monday night or morning, I can toss some red beans in the slow cooker or Instant Pot. It takes 5 minutes and provides beans for 3-5 meals.


Menu plan printable with weekly lunch and meal prep sections


Here is the food prep I plan to do this week:

Yogurt in the Instant Pot

Bone Broth in the Instant Pot or Slow Cooker

Red Beans in the Instant Pot or Slow Cooker

White Beans in the Instant Pot or Slow Cooker

Soaked Whole Wheat Bread (we have a mild gluten-intolerance in our family, so soaking the wheat overnight helps make it more digestible without buying expensive gluten-free bread)


Here We Go

Can I be honest? I’m a little nervous. We did this before, but not since our youngest son was born. And my kids eat like they have tapeworms.

I’m not worried about being able to feed everyone. I’m worried about getting enough fruits and veggies in everyone, and I’m bracing myself for a little bit of #firstworldkids complaints. They’ll be fine, but still. No mom likes complaining.

Remember, I’ll share every meal, our grocery haul, and other tips throughout the week on Instagram and Facebook! And the Cheapskate Cooks Facebook group will get the inside scoop.


What You Can Do Now:

  1. Get every #RealFoodCheap update on the Cheapskate Cooks List and Instagram (I share a lot on Instagram Stories)
  2. Got any tips to help us stay under budget? Share them in the comments below!