How We Eat On $300.00 a Month: My Meal Planning Guide

I’m surprised by how many comments and e-mails I’ve received about how, and what, I eat for $300.00 a month. I’ve always loved cooking and finding recipes that can make inexpensive foods taste great so I will start posting some budget friendly recipes for anyone who is interested.  For now I will give an example of our meal plan/grocery trip.

I don’t worry about breakfast or lunch too much. We eat basic cereal or toast/bacon for breakfast and usually a sandwich/yogurt/fruit for lunch, I only worry about dinners.

Organization

I use a list very similar to this meal planner made by Life in Yellow (which you can download for free! so head on over to her site!)

I make my plans up on Sunday and shop Tuesday bringing my trusty planner along with me.

If I have meat in the freezer I will usually try and cook around that first. I had some pork loin chops left this week so one meal will include pork. Once I look through the freezer, I go to the weekly sales and see what meat is on sale. This week boneless/skinless chicken was on sale, as was oven roast so this will act as our starting point for meals. I always have ‘side staples’ on hand and buy as we run out  (long grain rice, potatoes, salad ingredients and frozen corn or broccoli). I only buy what I need for the week so if I’m out of rice but don’t include rice as a side for any of my dinners I won’t waste the $4.00 buying it this week if I’m not eating it until next. I don’t like to have money tied up in food.

In terms of chicken specifically, hubby and I share a chicken breast when cooking. I don’t know about where you live, but the size of the chicken breasts(and almost all meat for that matter) at our grocer are more than twice the recommended portion size for meat so 90% of the time I cut it it half. The exception being if we BBQ the breast then we tend to have our ‘own’ although we never finish them and the meat usually ends up in a salad for a lunch next day.

I plan meals and after looking through the cupboards and my recipe book, I only write down what we need (down to every tiny spice), if it’s not on my list I have it at home.

Meal 1: Sweet and Sour Pork Chops (with rice)

Need: 1 can of pineapple tidbits, cornstarch, 1 can of chicken stock 

Meal 2: Spicy Grilled Chicken Sandwiches (with fries)

Need: 1 Chicken breast, 2 buns, fries 

Meal 3: Grilled chicken salad (with garlic bread)

Need: 1 Chicken breast, salad kit, loaf of french bread

Meal 4: Dinner out with family-separate budget from grocery funds.

Meal 5: Greek Chicken Wraps (with my roasted potato)

Need: 1 Chicken breast, tortilla wraps, garlic/sea salt spice grinder

Meal 6: Chicken Divan (with rice)

Need: 2 Chicken breasts, broccoli 

Meal 7: Slow Cooker Roast  (with corn and mashed potato)

Need: Roast, 1 can cream of mushroom soup, bag of frozen corn.

Next I make my list adding the other necessities I need like milk. I also try and estimate the prices so I have a general idea before I go what I expect to spend at each store (I shop multiple stores chasing sales), so my grocery list will look like this:

Store #1:

-1 package B/S chicken (~$10.00)

-Milk ($3.50)

-Cereal ($2.50)

-Bread ($2.50)

-Salad Kit ($2.00)

-Tortilla Wraps ($2.00)

-Buns ($2.00)

-1 box of Kraft Dinner (Canadian staple, I love it!) (.65)

Total: appox $23.00

Store #2:

-3lb Oven Roast ($6.00)

-2 cans of soup ($2.50)

-pineapple ($1.50)

-Box of cornstarch ($3.00)

-French Bread ($1.50)

- Bag of frozen broccoli and corn ($2.00/each)

-Spice grinder($4.00)

-Fries ($3.00)

-Nutella (my weakness so only buy on sale) ($3.00)

-Chips ($2.50)

Total: approx $31.00

Store #3:

-Diet pop ($5.00+bottle depo $1.20)

-5lb bag of apple ($4.00)

-Bananas ($2.00)

-2x Granola bars ($2.00/box)

-Yogurt {This week a local grocer had a huge overstock of yogurt and was selling it for 0.25cents/4pack, Score!}

-Eggos ($2.00)

-Eggs ($2.00)

-Bacon ($4.00)

-Ketchup ($3.00)

Total: approx $22.00

Weekly Total: $83.00

Not included in my grocery money is cat food and cleaning supplies/toilet paper. We budget for the cat food separately and I started setting aside a few dollars each week for toilet paper and cleaning supplies since they’re so sporadic.

So there ya have it, an example of my weekly spending on food. Some weeks are more expensive when I run out of all ”basic” cooking stuff (always at the same time) but that’s usually only once every few weeks for stock ups. I try and keep my weekly spending between $65.00-$85.00.

I’m sure you’re all familiar with Canadian Budget Binder but if you’re not, check out his weekly grocery store challenge to see how other bloggers stick to their budgets!

Comments

  1. Thank you for the link-up and congrats to you and your husband for tackling the challenge of debt! It’s inspirational to read about how attentive you are to your grocery bills and meal-planning – you’ve encouraged me to take a hard look at where/how we spend our grocery money and I can be more responsible about it. Thanks again!

  2. Great tips! The chicken breasts are huge here too! I usually only do two in a meal that I plan to have 4 servings for as well. :)

  3. Good for your for organizing your grocery budget so well!

    It amazes me how people are able to shop for $85 a week for groceries. Actually it makes me quite jealous, because I know that will never happen in our city.

    I think our grocery stores split the boneless, skinless chicken breasts in half, because they are not that big here and 2 pieces are $6.00 on sale. A jug of milk is $5.00 and I would be so happy to find a roast for $6.00.

    This week I did a pot roast in the slow cooker with cream of mushroom soup and it made enough for 2 dinners (for 2 people) and a lunch. The roast was (are you sitting down?) $15.00.

  4. The prices you mention… They are WAY lower than anything I’ve ever find here in Toronto. =( Also you eat WAY less than I do. I guess that’s why I struggle to keep my food bills less than $600/m.

  5. Also… I’m no 20-something anymore. I’ve endured YEARS of personal financial austerity. Since food is the only “travel” I can afford, I’ve paid the piper in that respect. Mind you I’m not eating truffles and fois gras every day but I can’t bring myself to the slumming I did when I was a student. KD was only $0.39/box back then.

    Now, KD is not my idea of mac n’ cheese… I need Marscaponne, Gruyere, Parmesan, Elemental, AND aged cheddar, with some apple-wood-smoked-bacon, and a roue made from butter, cream, a splash of white wine, and whole-milk served on fresh home-made pasta (takes about 12 eggs and 2 cups of flour to make the noodles)

    Yeah I know… it’s about a zillion-billion calories and about 37 years worth of sat-fat and cholesterol. But topped with bread-crumbs (from my left-over bread that I baked myself) and a healthy pile of freshly grated parm (put under the broiler until nicely browned) is impossible to resist.

    • mrsplungedindebt says:

      haha that sounds amazing! There are certain things I avoid cooking/baking because I will eat it all. Feel free to make it and mail some to me!

  6. When we started blogging, I was also shocked at how much some people spend on groceries. I’m going to try to keep track next month for the CBB grocery game, but our budget is $200/month for two people. We always manage to make it and eat great food too!

    • mrsplungedindebt says:

      Until you really look at what you’re spending it’s so easy to get away with dropping a few hundred at the grocery store!

  7. Up until my both my laptop and desktop both took a dump on me (within days of each other) I was starting to write about couponing. I used to spend about $450 a month on groceries. Now I usually spend about $300 and get close to $1000 in product each month.

    • mrsplungedindebt says:

      Are you in the states or Canada? In Canada, you simply cannot coupon to the extreme like you can on the states (although Mr CBB over at Canadian Budget Binder can argue this a bit!) The volume of coupons doesn’t exist here and when coupons are issued there’s regulations around their usage (like only using one so you cant add multiple to the same product). Here in Atlantic Canada the coupons that we get with our weekly flyers also will not include coupons for items that are on sale(ie if Tide is on sale for 4.99, guaranteed there won’t be a coupon for another 1.00 off or something). The other thing about Atlantic Canada is that our farmers are protected by regulation (so they don’t suffer from recession etc) so certain costs are regulated like milk. We pay 3.55/2L of milk, doesn’t matter the dairy supplier you purchase, and there would never be a coupon for a dairy product. I commend people who are able to coupon but 95% of the coupons we get are for stuff I don’t buy and in some cases tempt me to spend money on an item i wouldn’t normally buy just so I can use the coupon!

      • Now I can understand many things you argue here and as I dont know anything about Canada, but let me ask you this… do the coupons expire the same week that they come out? Because part of using coupons is knowing when to use them. I have some coupon flyers that came out two months ago. That tide coupon that came out could be possibly on sale at another store in two weeks.

        Like you dairy is regulated in PA.

        • mrsplungedindebt says:

          Not necessarily the same week but they do have a short expiration date and there aren’t many coupons and very rarely are they on grocery items. For instance, the coupons we got this week were for dog food, shampoo, body wash, hair dye, boxed rice….nothing we use. And we actually never get coupons for Tide :(

  8. There are not as many coupons in Canada as in the USA and we can’t stack in Ontario like many can out in British Columbia unless that has all changed recently. We don’t use many coupons as often as we did in the past years as we are cooking from scratch and creating new recipes from foods in the garden and items we have on hand. I think what one of the posters mentioned about “how much they eat” plays a big role in anyone/family budget. We don’t eat that much food, in fact we eat just enough to satisfy us or similar to that of a microwave meal with 1 splurge day per week. We eat fruits and veg and make our own dips and on occasion our own bread and tortillas now. We hardly if ever eat out as we find we can get so much more from the shops for the price of a meal at a restaurant. Read my price comparison of eating out… or my coffee and lunch breakdown. The numbers were shocking although once in a while a treat or date night is in order for us. We also don’t eat chips, pre-made foods, convenience type foods cookies, crackers, pop (unless it’s free but I gave pop a kick to the curb) and only have it on special occasions. In the summer we had young volunteers staying with us so we did buy KD, nutella, cookies and all of the above but that was for them and their lunches and what they requested. We tried to cook on a dime but are back to our reg meals which like one poster says we like to eat as good as we can for our budget. We like to spend a bit more here and there on good products like EVOO, Parmigiano Regianno etc. It all makes a difference and you don’t use as much as the flavour is pungent. Prices differ all over the world and it would be quite difficult to spend like another family depending on kids, no kids, how much you eat, allergies, special foods, diet, budget, do you cook from scratch or buy convenience foods, time, shopping deals, using coupons, reduced racks… etc. All I ever suggest is to find out what your budget for food can be… then try and beat that budget. Set goals, cook one recipe from scratch each week, start meal planning like mentioned here, eat less or what your doctor recommends is good for your body. Drink lots of water. Little by little you may feel the need to stop buying certain products because you realize you can easily make them for cheaper at home or you just don’t need them in your diet or meals. Little by little you will stop yourself from throwing items in your shopping cart that is not on your list. Little by little, you will learn to say “No, I’m on a budget”. What works for us might not work for you but stepping out and saying, I’ll give it a try is better than doing nothing at all. Getting debt under control is a journey, but a journey in the end you should be able to say, I gave it my all. Cheers Mr.CBB and thanks for the mention of The Grocery Game. :-)

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  1. [...] recipes and shopped the sales for the 3-4 weeks leading up to it. Just as I would for any normal meal plan. Costco came though for items we needed a lot of (tomato paste, chicken broth for example) but [...]

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