What does a family of 5 eat while saving money and eating healthy over the holidays? Here is what saved our budget during weeks 5-7 of #RealFoodCheap.

real food cheap graphic

 Real Food Cheap: Weeks 5-7

The last 3 weeks held a lot of extra holiday activity. We stumbled through travel, Thanksgiving, more travel, grandparents’ house, some Christmas cookies, and more travel.

I didn’t track our menus or take photos of all of our grocery hauls. Realistically, many of you have better things to do these days, and I won’t be one of the thousands of voices taking precious time away from your family.

However, we stuck to our $90/week budget, and we are still eating real food! 

Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free

Around week 5, we had to tweak our real food guidelines. We have gluten and dairy sensitivities in our family. This means that even though we can handle both ingredients in our food, it is very easy to overdo it.

Week 5, we started exhibiting symptoms that told us we needed to limit dairy and be more strict about gluten. This makes the $90 grocery budget more challenging, but we did it years ago when we were strictly gluten-free and dairy-free, so this time it is easier. 

Simple Dairy Substitutions:

Instead of sliced cheese with lunch, we have tuna fish or hardboiled eggs. Instead of whole milk, we use almond milk. Instead of eating yogurt we make smoothies. In some ways, food restrictions help us eat healthier. 

Real Food Cheap

In case you are new here, here is a brief backstory for the #RealFoodCheap Challenge:

Our family of 5 big eaters eats real food on a $90/week grocery budget, 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 share weekly updates here, but I also post to Instagram and Facebook throughout the week with the hashtag #RealFoodCheap


Last week, we went out of town and visited my family. I did not enforce our stricter gluten and dairy restrictions. However, we are trying to teach the kids how to self-regulate and listen to their bodies. They know which foods are good for them, and while they enjoy eating pizza and Christmas cookies with the next kid, they occasionally said no without my prompting. 


While I did not record everything we ate the last few weeks, we stuck to a lot of our classic, simple, frugal food. 


Toasted Oatmeal, from Pretty Simple Cooking (hands down our favorite oatmeal)



Scrambled eggs and grapefruit

And the odd bowl of cereal or plain yogurt and granola at Grandma’s house. 


Largely leftovers or “snacky lunch” (see “snacky dinner” here


These 10 recipes are saving us right now in the midst of travel and holiday fun. 


It’s the holidays! So we’ve been combating the sweet tooth with some real food alternatives.

Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Skillet Cookie, from Pretty Simple Cooking

85% Dark chocolate from Aldi (dairy-free!)

And using these methods from Making Old Favorites Better to makeover some classic Christmas cookies into something more real-food-ish. 


Save Money, Eat Healthy!

Want to learn how to eat healthy while saving money? We share daily tips and ideas on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. But if you REALLY want to learn…

Join the Cheapskate Cooks list to get weekly tips and recipes, a free real food menu plan every month!


cumin beans and cornbread
Cumin Beans – the recipe that helped us fall in love with a bowl of beans!