November 21, 2017

$500 Month Food Budget – 3 Moms Update


3momsbanner1 3 Moms, 3 Kitchens, 31 Days

Do you remember when I was challenged with one month of reality cooking? Toni, Kate and I embarked on our 3 Moms, 3 Kitchens, 31 Day Challenge. Specifically, I shared how I shopped, cooked and fed a family of seven on $500 a month. My biggest challenge was to begin lowering your grocery budget by tracking your food expenses, and then to change your concept about how you shop – my # Grocery Guru tip. Admittedly, tracking expenses is pure drudgery, but it’s very revealing to see where all the money disappears. And somehow, it does disappear quickly, doesn’t it?

So much has happened since that month, including the end of our year of unemployment,hosting our spontaneous family reunion, painting the laundry room, and redoing the bathroom for $20.

With a very laid back approach to meal time, I realized this past summer that I need to have some kind of plan, even if it’s quite flexible. “Fail to plan and you plan to fail,” and yes, that completely affects the budget.

My three sons (hmm….anyone remember that TV show?) have all started their football season. With this time of the year comes a crazy chauffeur schedule, and even crazier dinner times. It also means being prepared for a house full of hungry guys at any given time. Out of the last eight days, I fed a crew five of those nights, including some extra breakfasts and lunches (or I should say brunch since they didn’t wake up till almost noon.) What this means for my blog is that I will be sharing some meal ideas that feed a bunch without breaking the bank.

One of the main things I have changed up is the kind of chicken I buy. Even though I love the convenience of boneless, skinless chicken breast, the cost can add up quickly when feeding fifteen people. I’ve been buying chicken quarters (legs and thighs), and throwing pounds and pounds of meat on the grill. Often, quarters go on sale for as low as $0.50/pound, so you can really get a big bang for the buck. Yes, the bones are a bit of a pain, but I’ve been serving them bone in right from the grill, but then I take the left overs (which I plan for) and pick the meat off to use for chicken salad, chicken burritos, and chicken pot pie etc.

For breakfast, we stocked up when peaches were on sale, and have been enjoying tons of smoothies.

IMG 5736 opt Feeding a Large Family for $500 a Month

Our chickens have been on strike with the heat, so I’ve had to buy eggs for my yummy breakfast skillets. Do you know how frugally frustrating that is to raise your own egg layers and then have to buy eggs? As wonderful as raising chickens can be, it’s honestly, not as frugal as you may think.

breakfast skillet_opt

I apologized to the football guys for serving taco soup on a hot summer night. Beggars can’t be choosers. They were grateful and gobbled up nearly two huge pots full of soup.

taco soup_opt

It’s such a good thing that I stockpiled all those groceries two weeks ago. Honestly, I was counting on stretching the gazillions of pop tarts a bit further, but hey – they were only a few cents.

stockpiling with coupons

So that is a little 3 Moms update. Don’t forget to check out what the other moms are doing. Kate is busy filling up her freezer before her new blessing arrive, and Toni is sharing her August grocery budget update.

How are your meal plans and grocery budgets coming along? Did summer through you for a loop, like it did me?

I’m excited to get back on track, and as I do, I’ll share some of the organizational tools that are helping me along the way.


  1. I also need to go back to buying bone in chicken. More work, but much easier on the budget. It’s been a bit of a lazy summer around here. I have my 5th child on the way, and my oldest is 11 so I read your blog in anticipation of what my life will be looking like in a few short years.


    Jens Reply:

    @kim, Congratulations. Yes, you are just a few years behind me. Physically, it’s less demanding, but emotionally…yikes. 😉
    Mostly wonderful though. The teen years sure do bring a source of entertainment (both good and


  2. Bone in chicken has the added bonus of making great stock. That is a huge bonus in addition to the savings. 🙂


    Jens Reply:

    @Heather Solos, You are so right, my dear Home Ec guru. Thanks for the wonderful reminder. Right now, I am not thinking soup as much, but I need to…


    Heather Solos Reply:

    @Jens, just toss the bones into the freezer until the temp drops. I use stock for rice, beans, and vegetables, too. Love that stuff.


  3. This summer seems to have shaken up our plans for being frugal. It just seems like we are so busy that I haven’t been planning meals and we have been making too many unplanned trips to the grocery store. When it’s really hot I just don’t feel like cooking. I always seem to get back on track in the fall. We have a more regular routine when everyone is back to school/work.


  4. We are in the middle of a kitchen renovation — convenience food is my friend.

    (But I did cook ahead some — ground beef crumbles, sausages, spicy pork burrito filling).


  5. Hi Jenn,
    It’s been one year of unemployment for our family as well. My the changes! I have found it to be a blessing in many ways. I just finished a post on my blog about my recent decorating expedition on a tight budget.


  6. I love this site! We are only afamily of 3 but I work really hard to keep our food expenses to a minimum. I’ve been doing a $40 Challenge. $40/week for grocery shopping and only allow mysef to splurge when there is a really good sale on meat/items we need or when it’s super double or triple coupon week. Let me tell you, I have really prioritized what we need and things that we can do without. Lets just say I’m a fan of stockpiling like Jen when prices are low. I just can’t bring myself to pay full price for cereal, poptarts and snacks. 🙂


  7. Deb Smith says:

    I made Taco Soup too! Yummy! I think that we all will see a bit of relief in the grocery budget with the kids going back to school. I have 2 summmer eaters, in the winter they are so busy that they cut back on the snacking. I never find Pop-Tart deals around here (central MO). I do make tons of homemade granola bars though!


    Lori M Reply:

    Do you think you could post or send me a granola bar recipe? I have been searching and searching for a good one and have tried several but haven’t had much luck. We eat a lot of granola bars around here and I would love to make my own. =) Thanks!


    Jens Reply:

    @Lori M, Deb, the commentor above, was sweet enough to send through her recipe.
    Here is this easy and yummy granola bar recipe. It will make you famous with your family!

    Granola Bars

    4 1/2 cups of old fashioned oats
    1 cup of wheat flour
    1 teaspoon of baking soda
    2 cups of mix-in’s (choc chips, nuts, dried fruits, coconut, peanut butter chips…..)
    1/3 cup of brown sugar
    1 teaspoon of cinnamon

    Mix all these dry ingredients in a large bowl

    Then add 3/4 cup of melted and cooled butter (equals 1 1/2 sticks of butter)
    1/2 cup of honey

    Stir well and press into a jelly roll pan. I think they are 15×9. Preheat oven to 325 and bake for 16-18 minutes. Cool and cut into approx 16 bars. Snack size zip bags are a perfect fit for individual bars. Our fave combinations are chocolate chips mixed with peanut butter chips, cranberry almond chocolate chip, and pecan chocolate chip almond. I also mixed up a trail mix one with peanuts, chocolate chips and mini m&m’s too.

    Let me know what you dream up! Anything is possible with this recipe!!! I think it came from I tweaked it a bit. It has been circulating around for awhile.


  8. I am constantly buying on sale, buying in bulk when it is cheap and using coupons but I have NEVER tracked my monthly spending on grocerys! I so should start, that would be interesting to see. I have a family of 6 but I do daycare so I’m feeling 12 – 14 people sometimes.


  9. We’re a family of seven with a wide age spread, ds14, ds7, ds5, ds3, and ds2. The oldest is finished with sports, but he’s starting a new Venture club which is on Wednesday nights, the same night as soccer practice, plus we have soccer practice on Tuesday nights, and other school obligations. Having everyone home this summer to eat wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but I’ve been stocking the freezer to be ready for the September madness.

    I can’t wait to see your organizational tools. I made up a two-page menu plan to give me more room to plan the details for the week. I am also challenging myself to feed my family out of the freezer and pantry and save money for other goals.


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