October 21, 2017

My Food Budget Update (and Free Meal Planning For Life)


Ever since the Extreme Couponing show aired last year and our stores were flooded with new couponers desiring to learn the ropes of this age old jewel of saving money, I’ve reaccessed how I’ve shopped. Yes, all the tips I gave last year for rethinking my strategy after Extreme Couponing are still in place. In fact, now more than ever.

With rising food prices, the many years I have kept our food budget of $500, for our family of seven, is slowly creeping, and that creeping surely isn’t going down. In fact, I’ve addressed the issue of monthly food costs before and even posed the question to you in my “What are Your Monthly Food Costs?” posts. Your comments were quite eye opening.

I have a hard time walking into the grocery store and purchasing food at these prices. It’s painful and so I’ve kicked up my meal planning to high gear. Now, don’t hear me say ” I am an ultimate meal planner.” In fact, I struggle to use the very meal planning printable worksheets that I produced. It’s rare that I have my meals written out. Yes, I am admitting that. I struggle in that area, but I have been very proactive about making sure I am making my meals from scratch and buying at rock bottom prices, especially meats and produce. I’ve been incorporating many of my “Ten Minute Dinner” suggestions and making my own “prepared convenience” foods.

I’m going to be going into more details about just what I am doing and my goal is to share my itemized monthly grocery bill because even though it’s a bit over $500 these days, I still feed my HUGE boys and sweet girls, with huge appetites, healthy meals for much lower than you might expect.

Many of these tips I will be sharing at my upcoming “Savings Nation” workshops, but one wonderful resource I thought I would point out today is Food on the Table. 

It allows you to browse recipes and pick categories based on your meal preferences and dietary needs, as well as make choices based around the grocery sales in your neighborhood. Now that is COOL and the best part is that they are offering it for FREE right now. I love trying new things that might make my life easier. 

Click Here to browse Food on the Table – the better way to plan meals and save money. SPECIAL OFFER: Use promo code: SPRINGFREE, throughout the month of April, and get the service for FREE for life!

Understanding meal plans and avoiding the last minute impulse buys are key to saving money and you don’t have to cut a coupon to do that, but I still do, cut coupons, that is, in large abundance.

I love Kellogg’s and I if you aren’t receiving their coupon packets by mail, sign up below to do so. I pair these great coupons with my store’s cereal deals (and better yet, if they are out, I get a rain check and stock up at my convenience.)

How are you doing on your meal planning lately?

With spring here, I am feeling re-invigorated and have five straight days under my belt of a full dinner on the table. That feels great!!


  1. Happy Easter Jen!

    I have been on a mission to stick with the meal plan lately as well. I am not trying to shamelessly promote but my most recent post was our menu plan for the month after examining the freezer/ pantry and using up what we had.

    God has been very generous to us lately by providing us with two new stores that have DRASTICALLY cut our food budget. I hardly ever go to our old grocery story anymore. I am telling you this as it may be time to find a new place to shop! The store that is the greatest new addition is called Sharp Shopper which is a grocery outlet. Look for something like this in your area. A few ladies from our church used to drive 2 hours one way (!) for the bargains. I thought that they were crazy. I mean who has that kind of time and what about the gas? Now that the store has moved into our area, Im practically doing the happy dance whenever I leave. The other store that has saved me hundreds is a large international food store. The meats are a great deal! Fajita meat for 2.99 a lb. Their produce is also very cheap. I barely coupon anymore (just toiletries and cleaning products) but I often find those at Sharp Shopper as well. I have seen a savings of nearly $300 a month on our food budget since the “switch”. Also, I have started going to the Arnold bread store again and stock up on the $1 bagels, bread, english muffins.

    here is the link for the grocery outlet in our area:
    maybe you can find a similar store in your area?

    I hope that this helps you! Looking forward learning from all your discoveries!


    Becky Reply:

    @Leslie in VA,
    Thanks for posting the link for Sharp Shopper! I live in Central PA, and haven’t heard of this store before. There are 2 that are reasonable distance to my house, I’ll definitely check them out!


    Jen Reply:

    I love grocery outlets and have a few in our area, but am always on the hunt for more and typically, it does come from word of mouth since they don’t put much money into advertising. I am starting up my new food blog in the next few months, and I think a great resource would be an index of stores like this, so thanks for letting me know. As I brainstorm, it would be neat to do a “by state” directory to help each other out.


  2. This is a great program! I put in the promo code and it said it was applied. Do I have to do anything else, or will it automatically give me free meal planning for a lifetime?

    Thanks for sharing.


  3. With food allergies and health issues in our family, couponing doesn’t work for me very well. I have to be so specific in what I shop for and cook. It becomes frustrating to keep our budget and still cook the foods that we can eat.


  4. Jen – I agree with Saundra. We have multiple food allergies in our family and couponing is not that beneficial for us.

    Has anyone researched buying clubs? Many swear by them as a significant cost-savings measure. I have read about them but I have not taken the next step and gotten involved in one.


    Jen Reply:

    Janelle – I will work up a post on that topic. I have done them in the past and yes, you can have some significant savings, but there’s also a lot of work involved. it’s a great option though.


  5. Thanks for the post! I have attempted to maintain a $400 +/- food budget for my family of 4 since 1996 or so. However, with the introduction of food allergies and trying to eat more locally produced and/or pastured meats it has been impossible. Coupons do me no good because of the allergies (wheat, yeast and other sensitivities). BUT, I have been shopping at my local farmer’s market and discount grocery stores for years. This has helped so much to keep the cost under control.

    For those of you from Central PA, the Ephrata area is riddled with discount grocery stores run by the plain community, one of which is Sharp Shopper. The other is Glenwood Foods off of Rt 322. There are several other Mennonite/Amish run stores with no signs too. You can find them by word of mouth. One is Daniel Martin’s. You will save hundreds of dollars utilizing these stores before shopping at your traditional grocery store.

    For about 6 years I drove an hour each way to shop 3-4 stores once a month with my sister. Now I am only about 20 minutes away. I shopped at Glenwood just this morning, filled my cart to OVERFLOWING, using even the bottom shelf, and my bill was $108. It is worth finding discount, scratch and dent stores in your area.

    Shopping your local farmer’s market allows you to buy produce at its lowest, in-season price. Market prices for meats are often lower than a grocery store chain too. It’s always a challenge for me to balance price with quality. These are just two ways I am trying to do it.


  6. Just wanted to add my two cents – I’ve been shopping at Sharp Shopper for years and always save tons of money there :). It’s the greatest – not sure what I’d do without it!!


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