How to feed a family of 5 on a budget?

United States
March 5, 2007 5:03pm CST
I don't know about you but I hate going grocery shopping lately. It seems like you barely have anything in your cart and your still spending a load of money. So I am trying to find some great ideas and recipes on how to feed a family of 5 on a budget. Budget meaning like as cheap as possible on a meal. Any ideas, suggestions,and/or recipes would be great. I do have some meals I make but always looking for a way to change things up a bit. Hope to hear from you soon. Thanks much.
12 people like this
43 responses
@the_vicar (1478)
• United States
5 Mar 07
I also had a big family and here is how I kept my budget from breaking me: 1. Use store coupons. 2. Buy sale items in as large a volume as allowable. 3. Use pasta, rice, and potatoes. 4. Make your food from scratch instead of pre-made foods which can be very expensive. 5. Use a lot of veggies which add bulk to the food and also provide good fiber to stay healthy. 6. Stretch the use of fruits by incorporating them into dessert. 7. Buy in bulk when possible. 8. Don't buy useless stuff like soft drinks and chips 9. Make large salads 10. Buy lean cuts of meat and then cook slowly so it becomes tender. Many times the leaner tougher cuts are much cheaper to buy. 11. Make fish at least once a week...beans once a week...a meatless dinner once a week such as macaroni and cheese.... 12. Have breakfast for dinner once a week. Eggs are usually cheap.
• Canada
5 Mar 07
Great tips, I try to follow most of those! Except I like to have tons of fruit, it's healthy and I snack on it instead of junk food. I don't eat a lot of fish or beans, but am trying to find more recipes for chickpeas and black beans to get more of those nutrients in my diet... I definately agree with trying to make things from scratch at home, it's a lot cheaper and healthier. I make my own bread, muffins, cookies, desserts, etc.
3 people like this
• United States
6 Mar 07
We do breakfast for dinner. It is cheap! We do pasta and eat alot of rice. I try to find coupons I can use in conjuction with store sales. I love the buy 1 /get 1 sales. ! I appreciate your help and ideas. They are all useful.
1 person likes this
@tad1fan (3373)
• Canada
5 Mar 07
I also have a family of 5 2 boys 11&16(big eaters)and a girl 10.....what I do when going shopping is 1)check out all the fliers for grocery stores in my area and make a list of where I can find the cheapest items on my list of needs 2)I always try to buy as much as I can in bulk 3)I always try to get meat orders instead of buying individual packages 4)Whenever there is something on sale,real cheap that we use I will buy a lot of it at that time and than I don't have to worry about it the following 5)I always go to my local grocery store 2-3 times a week if they have something on sale that I use a lot of and when they run out,I get a rain check for it.....I know this doesn't sound right but it's worth it in the long run......6)I have left over night every Thursday,this is where I clean out my fridge and whatever is in there,as long as the kids like it all,I put it into one big pot,or roast pan and cook it like a stew,I even make a gravy or broth to go with it.....the first time I did this I thought I was wasting my time and no one was going to eat it but to my surprise they all loved it and now look forward to our one pot Thusday night meals.....I hope some of these suggestions help,I know they work for me
• United States
6 Mar 07
Also good ideas. I shop at the bigger supermarkets because the smaller ones most times will not be any cheaper. I watch the sales every week and I am trying to hunt down coupons to use in conjuction with the sales. I make a lot of casseroles up that will feed us at least two meals maybe a bit more. I have 3 boys who at times are already eating me out of house and home, especially when they are going through growth spurt. Any and all ideas are great ones. I do most of what has been said but it's always nice to hear from others and see what they do that might be different. Thanks much!
1 person likes this
@Lyrica (127)
• Canada
5 Mar 07
I'm a student so I'm always on the lookout for cheap, easy meals to make. What I've found is that if you want to completely cut down the cost of groceries, don't buy junk food or things that are unnecessary like pop or ice cream. Hunt around for sales - like sometimes grocery stores have sales on their pasta so I go and stock up. I love making pasta because there's so many different ways of making it and it's just as delicious and filling (and cheap!). You can make it simple like just spaghetti with tomato sauce and ground beef or you can add things like a pork chop or a fish fillet. Know what fruits are in season and resist the temptation to buy strawberries in winter (that's my weak spot) ;)
5 people like this
• United States
6 Mar 07
Hi, yes we do eat alot of pasta dishes as well as rice. We don't buy alot of junk food. Maybe twice a year we buy ice cream and we quit buying soda (pop) cuz that's all the kids wanted to drink. We do alot of one pot dinners, casseroles etc. Thanks for your advice, its always good to hear others ideas.
2 people like this
@Kchele (77)
• United States
6 Mar 07
When my mom was married to my step-dad we was feeding a family of 6. Our income was super low, so I know how it feels. Some things that we ate: - grilled cheese sandwhiches and tomato soup (you can do different kinds of soup too if you wish). - Macaroni and Cheese. Sometimes my mom would mix it up a bit and add a can or 2 of tuna to it (depending on how much we made) or a can of cream of chicken soup. Mac and Cheese is a great food to add things to. - Tator tot cassarole (bag of frozen tator tots, 1 or 2lbs of hamburger fried and crumbled, 1 can cheddar cheese soup) layer it all in a baking dish and stick in the oven at 350*, just keep an eye on it. - Tuna melts - toast some bread, mix up some tuna with some mayo, spread on bread, top with half a piece of cheese and bake at 350* for 5 min....this was always so good. With little money we became pretty creative with food. I have a ton more that I could share with you if you would like.
• United States
6 Mar 07
Great ideas, thanks much! My kids love tomato soup and grilled cheese. One of my kids is weird. He don't like macaroni and cheese. But we have done the whole mac n cheese w/ tuna in it. Yummy. The tatter tot casserole sounds good, I will try that soon. I try to be creative with what we have and most of the time it comes out good. May sound weird to some but it still fills the belly.
1 person likes this
@deebomb (15323)
• United States
6 Mar 07
use 1/2 the hamburger and 1/2 vegetables in the tater to casserol Make your own cream sauce for it too.
@deebomb (15323)
• United States
6 Mar 07
use 1/2 the hamburger and 1/2 vegetables in the tater to casserol Make your own cream sauce for it too.
@silverlou (372)
5 Mar 07
If your family likes fish, then kedgeree (i think thats how its spelt) is healthy and goes along way. Its smoked haddock and rice with veg and also whenever I need to really budget I make something called toad in the hole, its not toad so don't panic, its sausages in a large yorkshire pudding served with mashed potato and vegetables. Food is really expensive in the UK, so I'm on a budget most weeks lol.
4 people like this
• United States
6 Mar 07
Hi, we are not big fish eaters but we like sausage, rice and veggies. I do make things like this already and can go for a dinner and lunches the next day. Thanks for your input!
2 people like this
6 Mar 07
Try shopping in local markets if you have any near you. It may be less convenient than getting all your food under the one roof of a supermarket, but I find that it is usually cheaper, or you get more for your money. We buy our veg and meat from the local market, the veg is often larger (such as potatoes) and there are usually better deals on the meats. Try to buy in bulk, it is a larger outlay, but usually cheaper in the long run. To save foods from going off, make up meals in advance and freeze them in portion sizes to reduce waste. If you have the time, make things like pizzas- homemade pizzas are so much more tastier than shop bought ones and you can put anything on them, so often they are healthier. I would say you can make a pizza for £2.00 tops. Also, instead of buying frozen chips, make them instead. You can make delicious homemade chips in the oven with some olive oil and a sprinkling of rosemary (fresh or dried). Curries are great when they are homemade as well, Gordon Ramsay (a top British chef) has a wonderful Malaysian curry recipe which I use. I make it with chicken, but if you made it with turkey, its even cheaper. Pasta sauces are also easy to make, with a tomato base, you can add anything to flavour such as basil, garlic, chillies etc. Or for white sauces, all you have to do is make a basic white sauce (flour, butter, milk) and add anything to flavour such as cheese, cream, parsley etc). I usually put chopped up bacon in with these sauces as it is cheap and is still a form of protien. And ofcourse, pasta is cheap. Home made egg fried rice- YUM! Boil your rice as usual, then in a wok or frying pan, scramble a few eggs, add the rice and add some soy sauce and coriander- its as good as the chinese takeaways, cheap and filling! If you get some good store cupboard basics such as herbs, garlic, flour, tin tomatoes, eggs, cream etc, you can make a vast array of budget foods which taste great. Try shops "own brands". If they don't taste good, don't buy them again, but things like tinned tomatoes, sweetcorn, milk etc are usually fine. Where you budget on one item, maybe you can spend a little extra on another. I love to cook, but we are also on a budget as my boyfriend is the only full time worker in our house (I stay at home to look after our one year old). Experiment and have fun with your food! Hope I didn't go on too much and that my comment helps!
• United States
6 Mar 07
Thank you so much. Any ideas are helpful. I do try to keep basics on hand like canned goods as we call them in the u.s. It's always nice to learn what other folks whip up on few ingredients.
1 person likes this
@red158 (334)
• Canada
6 Mar 07
There's been alot of good ideas posted so far. I have to second the pasta chili shephards pie soups and stews can also go a real long way chicken cacciatore is real tasty and can be made with the cheaper cuts of chicken my mom's best dinner she called hamburger stew, it had hamburger and pretty much anything left in the fridge, always tasted good. I also shop the sales and stock up on staples, my shelves are always filled with soup and peanut butter, if I go below a dozen jars of peanut butter I get antsy.
3 people like this
• United States
6 Mar 07
Yes, I agree. Alot of great ideas posted so far. Alot of which I already do but it's nice to see that other people are doing what I am trying to do. I have learned some things from the posts. We eat pastas, rice, hamburger, veggies,fruit, soups and casseroles. Taste great and you can get two meals out of one usually. Gotta love those tiems. lol on the peanut butter.
• Philippines
6 Mar 07
You can always cut off spending by buying items with lesser known brand. Usually, the items in the grocery are expensive because their brands are well known. Go for lesser known brands and you would not be spending too much money. You can also save by buying fresh meat, vegetables, and fruits from the market. In that way, you'd be eating healthy too.
3 people like this
• United States
6 Mar 07
Hi, yep, I do that. Nothing wrong with it. I look at other peoples carts at the checkout to see what they buy and most of time its loaded with all the name brand products when the store brand is on sale for much less. I often feel like asking them why do you pay more for the name. lol. But to each their own. I am not proud, I am just trying to provide for my family. Thanks for your ideas and help.
@cjthedog64 (1553)
• United States
6 Mar 07
Plan out your menu, buy things in season and in bulk when possible. Shop at places like Aldi, where the food is the same, but just packaged under their name. Avoid junk food and prepared food. You can make things last much longer if you take a little time to do it yourself. Try to get a variety of dishes each week so you don't get bored and tempted to go out to eat. I can easily do daily dinners for 4 (with leftovers) for under $10 total, and $15 if we splurge on things like artichokes or steaks. We usually use leftovers for lunches, and sometimes breakfasts. Also, don't buy more fresh things than you'll be able to eat before they go bad. Pay attention to your fresh veggies, fruits & dairy so you don't have to toss them out.
3 people like this
• China
6 Mar 07
pasta is grest,because it really cheap so versatile,and sauce is inexpensive too ,especially when it goes on sale . you can make lots of spaghetti and tomato sauce ,macarini and cheese , fettuccine with alfredo sauce ,there'S SUCH a variety of flavourful choices
• United States
6 Mar 07
Yes i agree. Pasta goes along way and its such a versatile dish. You can use sauces, or olive oil or butter for flavor and add just about anything to it. Yummy. Thanks much for your ideas.
@lingli_78 (12845)
• Australia
6 Mar 07
i live on a tight budget too... even though there are only me and my hubby now (we don't have children yet), but i find that we spend a minimal of $70 per week just for grocery... for me, i always try to compare prices and buy the groecery from the cheapest store... also, when the store has a huge discount on items that i can keep for a long time such as shampoo, tissue paper, toilet roll, detergent, etc, i usually stock up so that i can save quite a bit of money and do not have to worry about them for at least another 6 months... i also try to buy the meat, vegetables and fruits that are on special... i won't buy them when they are expensive... so far, by doing all these, i manage to save quite a lot of money... hope it works for you too...
3 people like this
• United States
6 Mar 07
I spend about $100.00 on average a week. And that's cat food and all the other household stuff we need. I to buy items on sale and stock up a bit especially if its a really good price and use coupons to save even more. I like to buy only fresh veggies and fruits and buy usually whats on sale for the week. It is helpful to buy in bulk when you can, it does save. Thanks for your insight.
1 person likes this
• United States
6 Mar 07
Well, if you want to feed such a big family, try signing up for one of those stores like BJ's or sam's club. They sell common food items in bulk for a decent price. It's not exactly a recipie, but I'm sure they have things there that will help you get creative with dinner ^-^
3 people like this
• United States
6 Mar 07
Hi, thanks for your ideas. I do have sams club near me and costco. I havent been to one in a while but if I pay $25-50 I can become a member. My hubby and I were talking about that just a couple of weeks ago. I am a sale paper watcher and try to hunt for the best bargains. Thank again.
1 person likes this
@winterose (39918)
• Canada
6 Mar 07
I cannot even afford groceries, but I think you should contact villageanne, she is really good with recipes and how to save money. We are just two here and we cannot afford to buy much.
3 people like this
• United States
6 Mar 07
Sorry to hear about your dilemma. Have you gone to a local food pantry for help? We have had to use them before and was a life saver. But since my hubby is back to work again we are still trying to live very meager. I was looking for any added help to try to feed us on a budget. I do alot of the ideas already posted but sometiems you never know if a new one will pop up. Thanks for your help.
1 person likes this
@draconess (651)
• Canada
5 Mar 07
The most important thing for sticking to a grocery budget is to make a list, stick to it, and avoid the impulse items. Pasta is great, because it's really cheap and so versatile, and sauce is inexpensive too, especially when it goes on sale. You can make lots of spaghetti and tomato sauce, macaroni and cheese, fettuccine with alfredo sauce, there's such a variety of flavourful choices. Rice and big bags of frozen mixed veggies are also great. I often buy meat in big bulk family packs because it's a lot cheaper per pound. And sometimes you can use chickpeas or beans for protein, they're a lot cheaper and very healthy. I always read through all the local grocery store weekly flyers while I make my list, then I know what's on sale at which store. I buy lots of apples and bananas, they're the cheapest fruit. I do like to splurge on healthy choices like whole wheat pastas and all sorts of fruits though...
• United States
6 Mar 07
Yes I agree. I buy alot of apples and bananas too. I love when grapes go on sale! I buy fresh veggies too every week because they taste so good. I like to experiment with different things and throw some of this in there and some of that. Comes out good most of the time. Great ideas, thanks so much.
1 person likes this
@crazynurse (7489)
• United States
6 Mar 07
1.Dried beans are an excellent and very cheap source of protein. 2. Eggs are a cheap source of protein 3. Find out what day the grocery stores in your area mark down their meat...buy it and freeze it! I have done it for years 4. Buy cuts that are cheaper because they are lean (tough) and cook all day in the crockpot...they are very tender after that! 5. Cook things like crockpot stew, crockpot soups, crockpot chili (both regular and white chili!) They stretch a long way! Add a salad ! 6. Buy powdered milk and reconstitute it yourself! 7. Don't buy namebrand 8. Buy bulk and freeze! 9. Potatos can be used a million different ways. So can rice. Both can be bought bulk! Off the top of my head that it the best I can do!
2 people like this
• United States
6 Mar 07
More great ideas. Thank you so much. My hubby and kids are not big bean eaters but they are getting better about it. I make chili up and freeze whats left and make another meal or two of it. I only buy namebrand when its on sale and cheaper than the store brands as well. We do go through alot of milk in my house but I don't think I can get the family to drink powdered milk. lol. Thanks again.
@nishie (27)
• Sri Lanka
6 Mar 07
I am also a person who does not enjoy grocery any more due to increasing costs. I try always try to buy seasonal fruits and vegetables. I try green leaves. Eat less meat
2 people like this
• United States
6 Mar 07
Hi, we do buy more veggies and fruit but we also need protein and iron. We make up casseroles alot and soups and chilis. Thanks for your ideas.
@angel_690 (209)
• United States
6 Mar 07
I am feeding a family of 5 on a budget so I can appreciate what you are saying. I spend about $100.00 a week and that includes laundry soap, dish soap, toilet paper, etc. We eat alot of hamburger (spagetti, tacos, cheeseburger pie, shepards pie, etc...) I buy alot at walmart and I usually plan out what I need before I go to the store. My husband and I take a lunch to work. The frozen salsbury patties are one of my childrens favorites so when I don't have much time to cook I will put 2 packages (1.88 per pkg which contain 6 patties w/gravy sauce) in the oven. I also use my crock pot alot for chili, corn chowder, roast, and chicken and dumplings. Chicken is really another inexpensive meat (that you can get the quarters in a bag for $4.99 approximately)again I also buy that at walmart. I do shop around but still get a majority of the items from walmart. I have alot of recipes but here is one that is real simple and my children often request it cost would be approximately $5 to make they are ham and cheese melts. I take english muffins and split them place them on a cookie sheet heat oven to 350, place a slice of american cheese on each half of english muffin, then place either diced ham or a thick slice (cut to fit the muffin)on the american cheese, then top the ham with mozzerella cheese. you can have salad to go with the cheese melts or even a bowl of soup (tomato is good). If you would like more like this let me know.
• United States
6 Mar 07
Yeah, us too. We eat alot of hamburger and chicken. I like to shop at super walmart as well as meijer where I live. I get alot of good deals. I am trying to use more and more coupons to help especially when my coupon coinsides with the sale paper. We like to make english muffin pizzas. The kids love this, because they get to make their own. Great ideas, thanks so much.
• Canada
6 Mar 07
Just shop for cheap meal: spaghetti, hot dog, whatever. Just the cheapest, and then, try to find some receipts for that food. Eggs sandwich are good.
2 people like this
• United States
6 Mar 07
We love egg sandwhiches! We eat pastas, alot of rice and alot of casseroles. Thanks for your ideas.
• United States
6 Mar 07
Coupons coupons coupons, sales, and buying in bulk. Those are the three keys. There are alot of items that you can cook if you buy wizely. I think the key to buying is looking at labels and seeing what the cost per ounce is. Many items you can freeze if you buy a large enough quantity at the same time. And when something is on sale, buy the largest quantity possible if the sale is a superb value. For example the other day I bought some pork loin chops at Kroger. THey were buy one get one free on the packages. So I found the best packages possible and bought 4 of them. That was 16 pork chops for about $8. That will feed me alone for 2 months. Then other items are things like a pot roast. I bought a large pot roast that can feed me for quite a while. It's all about knowing what to buy and if you can, use coupons. They come in the Sunday newspaper all the time. If you don't get a sunday paper, go buy one at places like UDF. The paper will pay for itself with the coupons you get. Good luck and be a smart shopper.
2 people like this
• United States
6 Mar 07
Oh for sure. I always watch the papers and love when the buy 1/get 1 sale goes on. I stock up! I do use coupons and try to use them with the sale prices. Yes,I am going to start getting the sunday paper because to keep printing out coupons online is getting to be expensive. My ink for my printer is $27.00. lol. So I woould rather spend $1.50 a week. Thanks for your help.
@djaboo32 (45)
• United States
6 Mar 07
I am not sure where you live- but here in the US. - you could always stock up on rice, pasta, and beans- You can make all kinds of meals with these inexpensive items- My mom have fice kids- a family of seven- A pot of beans (lima, pinto, kidney, etc...) arond .80 -$1.00 per pound last a week serve with some cheap meat- chicken (legs/thighs) or pork - We use to really love creamed corn, buscuits and a roll of pork sausage- OR still my favorite hot dogs and baked beans and even cheaper -oodles of noodles with eggs or any meat combination- All these foods stretch a long ways and have a decent ( healthy shelf life) Good luck!
2 people like this
• United States
6 Mar 07
Us too. We eat pastas, rice and beans and alot of soups. I tend to make alot of casserole dishes. Can feed us two meals and maybe a lunch. But have you ever noticed, that buy cooking some of the cheaper meals,that its so un healthy for you? Like pork sausage and biscuits. All the pasta. So sad that alot of fattening foods and foods that are hight in sodium and not healthy for you all are most cheapest. Just something I noticed. But we do what we have to do to feed our families. Thanks for your help.
• United States
6 Mar 07
exchange red meat for turkey. ground turkey goes a lot further than ground beef per dollar. beans and rice are also cheap. anything pre-made is gonna be expensive so no handburger helper.
• United States
6 Mar 07
Hamburger helper, yuck. I hate that stuff. We do ground turkey as well. I buy ground mean when its on sale and buy it in bulk and just split it up. Great idea, thank you.