How to Feed a Family on a Budget

These frugal food hacks for families will have you feeding kids on a budget in 2024 – the best ways to save money on food go way beyond just grocery shopping tips! 

As parents, making sure our kids get nutritious meals is a top priority. I know I’m not the only one who stresses about the health of my child’s diet. With the cost of living rising, we often find ourselves wondering how to feed a family on a budget!

In today’s world, balancing the grocery budget with the need for wholesome, satisfying dishes can be a real challenge.

With food prices skyrocketing and busy schedules to manage, finding cost-effective meal ideas (that your kids will actually eat!) can seem daunting. Fear not! In this blog post, I’ll share practical tips, tricks, and meal ideas to help you feed your family on a budget, without compromising on taste or nutrition.

Get ready to discover how smart shopping, meal planning, and creative cooking can turn your kitchen into a haven of delicious, wallet-friendly meals that your entire family will enjoy.

(This post may contain affiliate links. Our full disclosure can be found here.)

Start by Setting a Realistic Food Budget


Before diving into meal planning, the first step in successfully feeding your family on a budget is to take the time to establish a realistic food budget. The days of “feeding a family for $250/ month” are over – unless your family is just you, and you personally REALLY like rice, beans, and carrots.

Consider your current financial situation, family size, and dietary needs. A large family will need to set aside more of their budget for food, or eat more rice dishes. This is just how it is.

Look at what you’re spending currently on food per month, and be honest about how much that could be reduced. Don’t go for drastic changes the first month.

Aim for reducing your spending from what you’re currently spending, but budget more than what you believe you’ll need. (It’s better to be pleasantly surprised than super stressed and anxious!)

Initially, try planning and shopping bi-weekly to help you establish a baseline for your budget. Once you become more comfortable with the process, you can decide whether to switch to a planning out an entire month at a time.

Meal Plan Around Sales and On-hand Ingredients


Once your budget is set, you need to meal plan.

When creating your meal plan, watch for sale prices – check store flyers and online deals for items on sale. Also be sure to consider in-season produce!

Plan your meals around these discounted items and what you already have in your pantry.

This approach not only helps you save money but also encourages you to use up items before they expire.

Cook from Scratch


Cooking meals from scratch is generally more budget-friendly than buying pre-made or processed foods, you know it I know it, we just don’t always DO it because we’re rushed.

Frozen dinners and ready-made food are a life saver when we’re late or exhausted, but they also a great way to destroy a tight budget.

If you HAVE TO have ready to go food in the freezer, consider devoting one day per month to making your own freezer meals.

When you’re ready to cook from scratch, we have ideas for cheap dinner recipes here, and cheap breakfast ideas here. 

Double the Batch


When preparing a meal, consider doubling the recipe (for large families, triple the recipe). This approach saves time and money by allowing you to take advantage of bulk pricing and reduce cooking time for future meals.

You can freeze these extra portions if they are freezer friendly meals (things like chili, stew, casserole etc.), or you can use them as leftovers in the coming week.

Plus, homemade dishes are typically healthier and allow you to control the ingredients. Experiment with simple recipes and gradually expand your culinary skills.

Incorporate Meatless Meals, Breakfast for Dinner, and Leftovers into Your Meal Plan


Replacing traditional dinner once per month with a meatless meal will help stretch your family food budget.

So will having breakfast for dinner now and then (pancakes and eggs are WAY cheaper than meat dishes like roast beef or even spaghetti with meat sauce).

When you discover a few favorite “cheap meals” that everyone enjoys, make sure they make it onto the list EVERY month!

Learn About The Nutritional Value of Real Food


One of the easiest ways to save money on food and feed your family on a budget is just to incorporate real foods into your meal plan. (Foods that are not overly processed.)

Real foods (often called whole foods) are often cheaper than processed foods because no one has to process them.

Things like sweet potatoes, carrots, bananas, apples, dried beans, brown rice – these things are all more expensive than they used to be, but still cheaper than most processed food.

Read our whole shopping list of the cheapest healthy foods on a budget right here.

Use Cash for Shopping


To stick to your budget, consider using cash for your monthly or bi-weekly shopping trips.

This method ensures you don’t overspend and makes you more aware of your shopping habits.

Set aside the cash for your food budget in an envelope or dedicated wallet, and only use it for groceries.

(When you head to the grocery store, arm yourself with these 27 underrated ways to reduce your grocery bill – everything from buying store brand instead of name brand to what time of day to find the best deals!)

Check Dollar Stores, Ethnic Stores, and Bulk Stores, and even Farmers Markets Before You Get to Your “Regular” Store


These are some of the best places to realize huge savings on grocery prices.

For example, I just bought oat milk at the sore this week, and then found THE SAME OAT MILK at the dollar store for $1.50 less.

Buying fresh fruit and fresh produce at the farmers market when in season can save enough extra money in your budget that you can use that “surplus” to get ahead and stock up on pantry staples and frozen meats (like ground beef) for the months when seasonal produce is less readily available and more of your budget will go towards more expensive fresh food.

Use Budget Surplus to Plan Ahead


Once you get to the point where you have a little food budget surplus, plan ahead! Stock up on pantry staples that tend to be cheaper in bulk and keep a long time – like rice, dried beans, lentils, pasta, pasta sauce etc.

Anything you use regularly and keeps well is fair game for surplus spending. If you find olive oil at a great price, stock up with your surplus, instead of waiting until you NEED it to restock.

When you menu plan again next time, you’ll be able to incorporate more meals around ingredients you already have on hand.

So, in this way, surplus leads to MORE surplus!

Don’t be Afraid to Try The Generic Brand


You might be pleasantly surprised AND save so much money you don’t even know what to do with it. (Haha. Ok, maybe not, but it’s a really easy way to stretch the family food budget.)

Don’t Let Your Kids Get Accustomed to Sugary + Prepackaged Snacks


Our kids have never had their own can of soda – ever.

This is partly a health-based parenting choice, but it’s also a budget based choice.

When they DO have soda, it’s in the summer, as an ice cream float, as a MAJOR TREAT on a special occasion.

If you’re regularly buying individual cans of soft drinks, individually packaged snack foods etc. for your kids you are likely blowing a huge chunk of your food budget there.

Kids need healthy snacks, but let them snack on apples, oranges, air-popped popcorn, bulk-purchased nuts etc. You can portion out Goldfish into plastic zip lock bags for a fraction of the cost of buying the little individual packages. (If you doubt this, check the unit cost next time you buy Goldfish crackers!)

Talk to Your Kids About Food Waste – and Stay Aware of it Yourself


Food waste is a HUGE budget buster, and kids are big culprits of it because they don’t understand.

Explain to your kids that wasted food is wasted money, and wasted money is wasted FUN.

It’s really helped our kids to understand that money = fun, because we can spend our money on fun things if we don’t have to spend it on more food.

That said, it’s up to you to monitor small kid’s food waste. Don’t let them dish their own food up, and dish them up smaller amounts than you think they will eat, because they can always go back for more.

Are You Ready to Create Your Frugal Grocery Budget?


Approach it like an adventure instead of a slog – and you might even find it’s fun hunting down great deals on chicken breast, buying three times what you normally would, and imagining what you’ll do with it over the next 3 months.

By incorporating these practical tips and strategies into your daily routine, you can successfully feed your family delicious and nutritious meals without breaking the bank.

Embrace the art of meal planning, savvy shopping, and creative cooking to transform your kitchen into a space where budget-friendly and satisfying meals come to life.

Remember, being mindful of your spending and making small, consistent changes can make a significant impact on your family’s overall financial health and well-being.

So, roll up your sleeves and get ready to embark on a flavorful journey towards a more budget-conscious lifestyle.

Here are some great resources if you’re looking for cheap healthy meal ideas:

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