Here’s what we ate on a $25 a week grocery budget – trying to eat as healthy as we could!
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When Chris and I were first married, we tried to do the grown-up thing and make a budget. At the time, we were broke, living off not quite full-time entry-level jobs that paid just enough to cover our monthly expenses without dipping into the savings account we built from wedding gifts.
We had $25 a week for groceries.
I also loved healthy eating, and I didn’t want to live off of just Ramen Noodles.
It seemed impossible. But if we were going to survive without bleeding out our savings, we had to find a way.
How to Eat on a Grocery Budget of $25 per Week
Making a grocery budget was the easy part. Keeping it was the hard part. First, we pinky-swore each other we would do everything we possibly could to keep this budget – even if it meant eating peanut butter sandwiches every day for lunch.
Next, I made it my part-time job to learn how to save money and eat well. I learned so much those first few months, and today I want to share some of those tips with you.
Eating well on a tight budget is totally possible! I’ll never say it’s easy or even fun all of the time, but you can do it. Stay focused, get creative, and trust that you CAN save money and eat healthy.
Here’s what you can do to spend just $25 a week on groceries:
- Make a list of your favorite budget-friendly meals and eat those.
- Pack lunches for work or school instead of eating out.
- Make your grocery list and menu plan focused on the food that is on sale and what you already have in your kitchen.
- Use allrecipes.com to find recipes that use random food you have in your kitchen.
- Eat your leftovers and reduce food waste.
- Only buy meat when it’s on sale and buy extra to keep in the freezer for later.
- Keep a broth bag in your freezer and collect the odds and ends of vegetable to make rich soup bases for basically free.
- Make meals that center around a healthy carb, like potatoes, rice, and pasta.
- Use meat like a condiment, not like a main course.
- Focus on the really budget-friendly vegetables where you live and only supplement with the expensive ones.
- Learn how to cook some basic foods from scratch.
- Learn how to substitute expensive or special ingredients with basic kitchen staples.
- Buy a few things in bulk and use them sparingly to make them last or split them with a friend so you can get a good price but you don’t waste any food.
- Stretch ground beef with ground turkey, lentils, riced cauliflower, or beans.
- Learn how to freeze leftovers or fruits and veggies so they never go to waste.
- Make meatless meals as many nights as you can! This is better for the environment too.
- Stay positive and remember why you’re doing this – you won’t be here forever. Things will get better.
Eating on a Budget: $25 Week Meal Plan
What did you eat on a $25/week grocery budget?
This is a question I get a lot, so I’m going to break it down for you and share any helpful recipes and strategies.
First of all, I want to clarify that this grocery budget was for two people, and it was several years ago. $25/week for two people was a crazy tight budget, and most people thought we couldn’t do it. But $25 was also a little different than it is now. Saving money and eating healthy is not a competition. Just do your best with what you have.
Our healthy food plan for $25 a week was only possible because of three things. They made all the difference, and they will help you save the most money possible in this season.
How to Eat Healthy on a Tight Budget
It’s easy to think that if we’re on a tight budget, we can’t eat healthy. Even though we couldn’t do everything I wanted to on our tight budget, I knew we could eat well while still being realistic.
I had grown up on a homestead where we raised our own chickens, goats, and grew a huge organic garden every year. Real food was important to me because I knew how much better we felt when we ate well.
Here are some great ways to save money and eat healthy on a tight budget:
- Cook whole chickens and use the bones and skin to make a rich broth.
- Instead of trying to buy all organic, learn about the dirty dozen and clean fifteen and use that to prioritize your shopping.
- Use ground beef instead of expensive cuts of meat.
- Use chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts – they’re cheaper and more flavorful!
- Use ground turkey instead of ground beef – quite often, it’s cheaper and leaner.
- Eat lots of budget-friendly fruits and vegetables (for example, where I live, those are carrots, lettuce, cabbage, and apples).
- Find meals that use vegetarian protein, like quinoa, lentils, and beans (many of my recipes use those!).
- Try frozen fruits and veggies instead of canned – they taste better and aren’t cooked with so much salt.
- Build your meals around healthy carbs like potatoes, rice, quinoa, and other whole grains.
- Keep your meals simple and make ahead if you can – this saves you time during the week and after work days.
- Instead of buying expensive organic versions of processed food, try making your own! You can find a recipe for almost anything online. I’ll share our favorite staples below.
Budget-Friendly Basic Foods You Can Make At Home:
- Broth (chicken, beef, or vegetable!)
- Seasoned Rice
- Beans (any kind!)
- My Master Bread Recipe (use this for anything – pizza crust, cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls, sandwich bread, etc.)
- Bread (no-knead version)
- 100% Whole Wheat Bread (that doesn’t crumble)
- Bread (without yeast!)
- How to Cook a Whole Chicken in Under an Hour
- Salad Dressing
A Week of Food for Under $25
This is what we ate on $25 a week.
- Oatmeal sweetened with maple syrup or honey (for protein: peanut butter or an egg, stirred into the oatmeal while it was cooking)
- Peanut butter on toast (or other spreads)
- Green smoothie (once a week because it was expensive)
- Pancakes and eggs
- Crispy Baked Home Fries with eggs
We packed lunches for work, and this saved us a ton of money over several years.
- Pasta and tomatoes with parmesan and greek dressing
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
- Peanut butter and honey sandwiches
- Peanut butter and raisins sandwiches
- Peanut butter and banana sandwiches
- Sprouts with cream cheese on tortillas
- Hummus wrap or sandwich with lettuce and tomatoes
We ate this with whatever fruits and veggies that were on sale and some budget-friendly snacks:
- Apples and peanut butter
- Celery, peanut butter, raisins
- Carrots, celery, hummus
- Tortilla chips and salsa
- Homemade trail mix.
Read more about how to buy fruits and vegetables on a budget here.
These are the recipes we used for dinners:
- Parmesan Pasta & Veggies
- Fried rice
- Barbecue chicken (literally just chicken with barbecue sauce in the slow cooker) with bread or potatoes, salad
- Lentil Vegetable Soup
- Mostly Meatless Nacho Dip
- Spaghetti (meatless) and salad
- Cheesy Lentil Pie
- Lentil Shepherds Pie
- Cheapest One-Pot Macaroni and Cheese
- 10-Minute Tomato soup
- Cumin Beans with rice, cheese, and hot sauce
- Beef & Veggie Soup
- Potato Peel Soup
More Budget-Friendly Dinners I Wish I Had Known:
- Githeri (Kenyan Corn, Beans & Veggies)
- Picadillo (Mexican Beef & Potatoes)
- Instant Pot Bean Soup
- White Bean Chili
- Turmeric Chicken & Rice
- Instant Pot One-Pot Chicken Burrito Bowls
- Cowboy Caviar
We focused a lot on meatless or mostly meatless meals. Since we didn’t love beans, we ate a lot of lentils and lentil-based dishes. Lentils are easy to cook (you don’t need to soak them like beans), delicious, and very budget-friendly.
Read more about how we made meatless meals our family loved here.
How to Stretch a Chicken Across Several Meals
I would buy a whole chicken, cook it in the slow cooker, then take all the meat off and use that in several meals (fried rice, parmesan pasta, salad, etc.), then make broth in the slow cooker with veggie scraps and chicken bones and skin. I used the broth to make a big pot of vegetable soup with lentils.
Read more about how to buy good quality meat on a budget here.
How to Stretch 1 Pound of Ground Beef Across Several Meals
We exclusively bought ground beef, and when I cooked it, I added cooked lentils (or riced cauliflower or just beans), seasoned everything really well with onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and I used that for tacos, sloppy joes, Nacho Dip, etc.
We also stretched ground beef by using ground turkey instead (or adding the turkey to the ground beef).
Read more about how to buy good quality meat on a budget here.
$25 a Week Grocery Budget
Altogether, we used a combination of all these tips and recipes to stick to our budget.
Was this a completely balanced diet? Probably not. But we never eat perfectly, do we? My goal is to keep a balanced approach to our eating, health, and grocery budget. Even though our grocery budget has increased over the years (especially as we added a few kids to our family), we still don’t eat perfectly, and that’s okay.
In the end, we didn’t starve, we didn’t go into debt, and I am proud of how much clean, real food we managed to eat during those really lean years. It worked for us, and I don’t think we would do it differently if we could.
I hope this list and meal plan inspire you to save money and eat healthy!
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