What does a family of 5 eat while saving money and eating healthy? Here is exactly what we bought and what we ate in the first week of our Real Food Cheap challenge.

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Right now, our family of 5 big eaters eats real food for $90/week, or about $360/month. Saving money and eating healthy is challenging! Our goal is to inspire, encourage, and equip you by showing you how we do it.

Whether you are just trying to make ends meet, paying off debt, or saving for a big dream, you can care for your body and your finances in the tight seasons. Get our Food Rules and why we are doing this here.

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

Also, if you prefer watching videos to reading, scroll down to watch our video update instead!


$20 Grocery Haul

This week, we only had $20 for groceries (read or watch why here) so here is what we bought:

Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean we only spent $20 on all of our food this week. Rather, we spent $20 on a few sale and supplement items. We mostly built the menu off of food that was dying in our fridge or in the depths of our freezer. Building our menu this way and spending minimal grocery money helps us save a lot of money and avoid food waste.

Kroger Haul

  • Organic baby greens (clearance) – $2.99/lb

Total spent at Kroger: $6.35


Aldi Haul

  • Butter – $2.55/lb
  • Whole milk – $2.29/gal
  • Sour cream – $.89/lb
  • Cream cheese – $.89/8-oz
  • Eggs – $.88/doz
  • Tortilla chips – $.89/13-oz

Total spent at Aldi: $13

Total spent this week: $19.35

Budget-Friendly Menu Plan

While we made a menu plan here, I rarely follow our plans exactly. That was especially true this week. So check out our plan here, but here is what we actually ate in real life!


Throughout the week, the kids are allowed to eat snacks as long as it is a fruit, veggie, or nuts (this has been our snack rule for years). This week they mostly ate apples and peanut butter, sometimes celery or carrots.

We had green smoothies a few times between meals, and we frequently eat a fourth small meal (tea time?) early afternoon that involves leftovers from lunch or dinner.



  • Apple breakfast cake (totally made up recipe – it was just okay. Nothing exciting)
  • Green smoothie
  • Leftover air-popped popcorn from the night before



  • Chili, brown rice (mostly meatless – I use about half of the meat that the recipe calls for – and I usually make up the recipe, using whatever we have a good basic chili recipe like this)




Snacky lunch (more ideas here)

  • Bread
  • Block cheese, sliced (buying real cheese in blocks is more budget-friendly than cheese sticks or pre-sliced cheese)
  • Veggies
  • Apples


  • Leftover chili
  • Tortilla chips




Kids fed themselves! We have frequent mornings like this. They just find whatever they like and make themselves breakfast.

  • Celery
  • Pickled carrots
  • Muffins
  • Apples with peanut butter


  • Last of the chili
  • With bits of snacky lunch to supplement


We had a crazy day, and I didn’t record what we ate for dinner. Probably another snacky meal.

Being okay with Snacky Dinners – a random assortment of food for dinner – helps us avoid the drive-thru or feel discouraged that we didn’t make a real dinner. If we are fed, we are grateful and happy.



  • Oatmeal



white bean chili



  • Scrambled eggs
  • Oatmeal


  • Kids had leftover white bean chili
  • I had a green smoothie




  • Cereal (yay weekends!)


  • My son and I had brunch at Chick-fil-A (I had a salad and he had a kids meal with fruit).
  • Everyone at home ate leftover hamburger helper


  • Dinner with friends!

We hosted dinner, and I’ll share what we made below.


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Deceptively fancy breakfast: Leftover dinner and Kroger markdowns (the spinach) with an egg. Even the imperfections – lukewarm because it sat out forever (#momlife ), totally overcooked egg, bacon was stone cold. Still delicious. Food doesn’t have to be perfect to be good. . . . ••••• What is your favorite “healthy” breakfast? (We must specify because if you ask me what is my favorite breakfast I will say eggs and toast and bacon and cinnamon rolls at my grandma’s house. Let’s speak truth: Favorite and favorite healthy will always be different.) . . . #healthybreakfast #goatcheese #turkeybacon #imperfect

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  • Spaghetti with “pumpkin” marinara sauce (just leftover mashed butternut, crushed tomatoes, and Greek seasoning. It was fantastic!)
  • Me: spring mix salad with chicken

Follow what we ate other days on #RealFoodCheap on Instagram.

Feeding Guests on a Budget

We love having people over for dinner, but planning a menu can get tricky. We want to serve them good food, keep it simple, and honor any food allergies or special diets are guests have. And let’s be honest dinner guests always have special diets these days.

Usually, my go-to dinner is a big pot of soup and homemade bread. This works for many families.

But when it doesn’t we have a fallback!

When we did our Cheapskate Whole30, we developed an allergy-friendly meal we nearly always serve to guests now. This meal feeds a lot of people with plenty of leftovers, it avoids the top 5 allergens (dairy, eggs, nuts, wheat, soy), can be paleo, whole30, and Keto compliant, and none of it is weird unusual food.

We can also change it up for each season of the year without changing the core meal.

We fed 9 people for $10 and were still eating leftovers 2 days later. This is what we served:

Budget-Friendly, Allergy-Friendly Dinner for Guests:

Spatchcock Chicken (cooks a whole chicken in under 1 hour)

– Salad (Fall/Winter salad or Spring/Summer salad)

– Mashed butternut squash (or potatoes)

– Our friends brought baked beans (so good!)

– The kids made Brazilian Brigadeiros as a school project and served them for dessert

Here’s the video update if you prefer. You can like it and subscribe to our channel here!

Real Food Cheap for a Family

So far, so good! I think we did a good job sticking to our guidelines and eating a healthy balance of whole foods.

Budget-Friendly Meal Prep

Next week is a little different.

We plan to bake and freeze a pound cake for my son’s upcoming birthday. Normally, we make Wacky Cakes, but I wanted to fit something a little special in the grocery budget. Plus Sour Cream Pound Cake makes other cakes not worth eating.

We are also camping with friends for part of next week. Each night, two families team up to provide dinner for everyone. Our group has a bunch of food allergies to work around too.

For our allergy-free camping dinner, we are making loaded Burrito Bowls (here’s when we made them while camping over the summer). It’s one of our favorite camp meals because it’s cheap, easy to make, and everyone loves the leftovers. I even included it in our free Budget-Friendly Camping Menu Printable (get that here!)

Next week, I’ll share what we pack and make while camping and eating real food on a budget!

What About You?

What’s your favorite way to eat potatoes? Baked? Mashed? Fries?

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Slash your grocery budget and feed your family real food! Get simple, frugal, real food menu plans every month for FREE in the Cheapskate Cooks’ 1-Min Email. Get your first one here.