How to Eat Well on Just $20 a Week (With Meal Plans!)
Can you eat for just $20 a week?
Well, I've been feeding my family of three on an average of $65 a week for several years
now — so you can certainly get close. Beyond a basic shopping list, eating on a
budget — any budget — takes some patience, planning, and creativity.
When I was cooking for only myself, I
found shopping for two weeks at a time most helpful with my budgeting. Packages
of food don't seem to be made for the individual alone; it's easy to create
food waste if you don't plan out meals in advance. Thing is, the same concept
applies no matter how many people I'm shopping for.
Check out this healthy foods grocery list and (mostly
vegetarian) menu plans for a week of eats — no coupons required.
My family has switched to shopping at
discount grocery stores like Aldi. The prices below are from my own Aldi
receipts, so be sure to check out the prices at your local grocer to compare.
If you haven't checked out this stripped down way of shopping, it's worth your
time and effort, as I'm always amazed at just how much I can fit into a single
grocery cart without breaking the bank.
Box of spaghetti noodles $0.89
Container rolled oats $1.99
Flour tortillas $1.19
Loaf sliced bread $1.19
3-pack of bell peppers $1.99
Couple heads broccoli $1.19
Bag of apples $1.49
2 bunches of bananas $1.50
3 pounds onions $1.39
2 pounds carrots $1.19
5 pounds russet potatoes $2.89
2 cans chickpeas $1.20
2 cans black beans $1.20
2 cans other beans $1.20
1 large can peeled
Jar of peanut butter $1.69
Jar of pasta sauce $1.99
2 cans of tuna $2.30
Jar of salsa $1.99
2 tubs low-fat yogurt $4.00
2 blocks of hard cheese $4.00
Dozen eggs $1.55
TOTAL: $41.91 (for two weeks)
Now that you have your groceries,
let's talk meals. The key with shopping and cooking on a budget is making your
precious ingredients stretch. Use the same types of ingredients in different
ways to make simple meals without any fuss. And there is also a certain level
of predictability — learning to love cheap meals and to rotate them into your
As a vegetarian, I like to start my
day with a dose of protein. About three times a week, I scramble or fry two
eggs. The rest of the time I like oatmeal or toast because it fills my stomach.
If you start to run out of sweeter staples, you can always cook veggies for
Eggs atop toast
Eggs with potatoes and veggies
Oatmeal with peanut butter and sliced
bananas or apples
Peanut butter toast with yogurt
Sandwiches are an inexpensive,
portable lunch option. You can serve them with sliced fruit and veggies on the
side to make it a fuller meal. And a note with the bread: I like to divide the
loaf I buy in half and then freeze half (around 12 slices) so it stays good for
the following week.
Peanut butter and banana sandwich
Tuna sandwich, subbing lowfat yogurt
in for the mayo
Egg salad sandwich
Toasted cheese sandwich
Veggie stuffed baked potato
Beans are a fantastic protein option
for dinners because they are filling and frugal. With many of the following
meals, you might consider making enough for two nights and eating leftovers to
save some time, all while using up the ingredients from your grocery list.
Veggie stir-fry, using spaghetti
noodles for bulk
Roasted or grilled vegetables with
Stuffed bell peppers (beans and
veggies) topped with melted cheese
Spaghetti with sauce and roasted
Most of these meals don't require
much in way of recipes. Instead, it's all about learning to cook basic meals
with basic methods (roasting, for example).
That way, if you find yourself with a random set of leftover ingredients, you
can whip something up without wasting food in the process.
Vegetarian and vegan meals are
inherently cheaper, but that doesn't mean you need to change your entire diet
to eat on a budget. Instead, aim for a few sans-meat meals per week to see some
Keep an eye on seasonal items and
certain sales at your store. Although stocking up may initially cost more, you
can enjoy some major cost reductions by shopping smart.And if you do stock up,
learn some basic food preservation methods to get the most
out of your investment.
Shopping in larger increments — like
an entire month — can also be a great way to save time and money. If you're
interested in trying this method out, I wrote all about amonth of freezer meals, complete with
instructions and meal ideas.