The $20 Meal Plan (Yes, You Really Can Eat Healthy For $20 A Week)


About a year ago, I published an article on how you can have a healthy diet for $20 a week. Some people loved it, some people hated it, other people just wished there was a $20 a week menu plan to go with it.

$20 Meal Plan

This article may contain affiliate links.

Well, here are the answers to all your questions. First addressing the naysayers, and next a more detailed menu plan to go with the shopping list.

(To those of you who commented before November of 2014, I’m sorry to say that we lost all of your comments during a site move, and I apologize if I don’t address them.)

  1. These Prices Are Lower Than What I Can Find In My Area. I totally understand that some areas have a much higher cost of living than where I’m from, however, in many cases, where there’s a will there’s a way. Ask yourself: are prices in my area really that much higher, or am I simply not branching out to finder a less expensive store? I can tell you that this shopping plan wouldn’t work in my area if I was shopping at H.E.B, Kroger, Walmart, or even Save-A-Lot.
    In fact, it’s worth every extra minute for me to drive an hour to Waco where the nearest Aldi is. (If you don’t believe that Aldi is that much cheaper, here’s a true story: We picked up butter for $1.79/lb. on our last shopping trip! No that’s not a normal price, but where else are the sales that good?!).
    In case you didn’t notice, those are not greater Nashville area stores. Yep, we changed locations by several hundred miles and can still make this $20 a week thing work.
  2. You can’t stretch four pounds of chicken per person over 6+ meals. You’re right, not if chicken is the main portion of your meal. Let me demonstrate how we used five pound of chicken leg quarters for our family of four this week: Night 1: chicken, sweet potatoes, salad. We consumed 2 leg quarters.
    Night 2: chicken tacos. We used another leg quarter on our tacos. Using so little for all of us was possible thanks to the added protein source of homemade refried beans.
    Night 3: Stir-fry veggies, chicken rice, and beans. We shredded the remaining leg quarter into the rice dish, and added more beans. Yum! That was five pounds of chicken, divided among the equivalent of three adults. So you see, stretching four pounds of chicken per person to last an entire week shouldn’t be that hard.
  3. Not enough snacking options. Welll, I don’t know what to tell you here. The three suggestions were apples, bananas, and carrot sticks. Based on the total daily calorie count of this menu plan, that should be plenty. One of the complaints was that 3 lbs of apple wasn’t enough for 1 a day. If you want an apple a day, I suggest dropping the bananas and getting another bag. Another option is to grab a bag of popcorn (2 lb bag was less than $3 yesterday). We pop ours in an air popper.
  4. Not enough food. Since this plan was based on an average consumption of 2,000 calories per day, I have three possible explanations.
    a). You’re really tall and muscular
    b). You’re training for a marathon and burning incredible amounts of calories.
    c). You’re very, very large (see “a”)
    Very few normal women would eat 2,000 calories daily, and the average man doesn’t eat a lot more.
    Personally, the only circumstance under which I breach 2,000 calories is when I’m nursing a baby full time (that’s 700/day), and working out hard. I also happen to be above average height.

So, now that we’ve addressed the naysayers, let’s move on to the actual menu plan. (You may want to look at the $20 a weekshopping list here first.)

Update: This is new and exciting! Now you can get the $20 Meal Plan Printable Shopping list and meal plan for free by filling out the form below!

Get The $20 Meal Plan Printable!

Want the printable version of this $20 plan? Sign up to get it WITH a complete shopping list, and meal prep instructions!

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The $20 Meal Plan


Breakfast: Eggs, hashbrowned potatoes.

Lunch:. Bean and Cheese burritos (boil beans with onion, mash with salt, and oregano if you have it, spread on tortilla, top with cheese and slasa)

Snack: Banana

Dinner: Stir-fried veggies, rice, beans


Breakfast: Oatmeal with butter and salt or sliced banana

Lunch: Beans and rice, or bean and cheese burritos (see above)

Snack: Apple, carrot sticks

Dinner: Chicken-veggie soup (place chicken leg quarter in crockpot, cover with water and let cook all day. Debone chicken, shred. Add one diced potato, sliced carrot, ¼ chopped onion, and ¼-1/2 cup of steamed rice. Boil until veggies are done. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 2) Similar to Chicken Noodle Soup


Breakfast: eggs and fried potatoes

Lunch: beans and rice

Snack: Banana

Dinner: Chicken tacos (homemade refried beans, shredded cheese – ¼-1/2 cup per person, shredded chicken, salsa)


Breakfast: Oatmeal and eggs

Lunch: Bean and cheese buritos

Snack: apple and carrot sticks

Dinner: Potato-Broccoli soup, boiled egg


Breakfast: eggs and oatmeal

Lunch: leftovers

Snack: banana

Dinner: Chicken with steamed veggies and rice


Breakfast: oatmeal and eggs

Lunch: bean and cheese burritos

Snack: apple with carrot sticks

Dinner: Chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy (baked or cook chicken in slow cooker, debone and shred, add cornstarch to broth at a rate of 1 ½ teaspoons per cup of gravy desired, add water to reach the desired volume, cook and stir until thick, season with salt and pepper. While the chicken is cooking, peel and boil potatoes. When done, drain and mash with butter, salt and pepper)


Breakfast: eggs and potatoes

Lunch: Lefotvers (add to them if needed i.e. more mashed potatoes, more gravy, more veggies, etc.)

Snack: banana

Dinner: chicken rice, veggies

scrambled eggs

Is the lunch menu here a little monotonous? Well yeah, we’re going for cheap, not gourmet here. This is meant for those of use who are trying to get the best use out of every. single. penny. We’re trying to save money on food, because we have something bigger that we want to put that extra money toward. Or maybe we’re trying to put some of our grocery money back so we can stock up during awesome sales later on. You know, sacrifice a little here, so we can eat more awesome food down the road.

So as you read, please don’t forget the purpose of this whole $20 menu plan: Saving money now, so you can get ahead, and live better not just later, but for the rest of our lives.

Because we all get to decide how well we can live within our individual budgets. So if you’re reading this, shaking your head, ask yourself this: Are you willing to do what it takes to make your budget rock?


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  1. It doesn’t seem like a lot of food, but you’re right in that I’m one of those people that was raised on eating tons of food and now it’s hard to stop. =) I know it’s possible to eat that cheaply, though. We lived on $37 a week for a year for me and my husband while the other $23 of our $60 budget went towards formula for our daughter. It was a rough year, but it was definitely just a season in our lives that we had to work through, and it was a huge learning experience in how to stretch our dollars. I’m now much better at meal planning and getting the best deals and still have money leftover to build my stockpile!

  2. I’m in complete agreement that one can eat healthily on such a small budget…. however 🙂 I have to disagree with your first “thought” of why someone would need more food because they are tall AND muscular. I know I’m probably being a nit-pick, but I’m 5’3″ and a healthy weight, but I apparently have more natural muscle than a lot of girls my height. A lot of people assume that if you’re short, you must be petite. I’m not, but I’m also not “big-boned”. I’m average, but I can eat twice as much as my petite friends, and even eat more protein and fiber, and still be hungry. I certainly don’t work out like crazy (hardly ever, actually)!

    So all that to say, $20 is definitely realistic for most people, even those in higher-cost-of-living areas. But some may need to change up which foods they’re purchasing. I have noticed that a lot of people who are concerned about adding “fruits and veggies” to their diet are emphasizing fruit, rather than veggies. Fruits are more expensive AND they tend to spike blood sugar levels, which can actually cause a person to feel more hungry. Rather than gorging, it’s worth it to check out the actual serving sizes of various fruits, and realize that you don’t need as much as you think! Adding in bulk through veggies still increases nutrition, but often at a lower cost.

    We also don’t need as much meat as we think, and I’m glad you addressed this in your post! I would add that homemade stock acts as a “protein sparer”, essentially giving you more protein nutrition even when you’re not able to consume as much protein. Cooking beans in stock makes them super delicious! I’m a huge fan of eggs and beans for adding protein. Once you do a cost comparison, it’s crazy to realize just how cheap those options are! And I typically feel more full after eating those than meat.

  3. Pingback: Thrifty Thursday Link Party | Link Up Your Budget Friendly Blog Posts
  4. A simple search on Google shows that there are very few people a day who should actually eat only a 2,000 calorie diet. Government sources even show that only moderately active children and adults (particularly males) should have closer to 2600-3000 depending on activity levels. If you are a family that has boys just 10 years +, this diet would not work for most of them regularly.

    1. Wow. I’m a 5’6 female who weighs 140lbs and my total daily energy expenditure is around 1700 calories per day. Any more than that and I start putting on weight!That’s with about 30-45mins of walking each day.

    2. The Government also gave that idiotic food pyramid for decades that told us to load up on carbs. And less protein.

      1. We don’t need to over-eat on protein, and if you just love protein, consume plant protein, not animal protein. Animal protein gets you sick, and can increase cancer cells, this has been proven.

        Humans don’t need to over-eat on protein at all, that’s just a marketing ploy for meat companies to rank in billions every year. There’s more protein in plants, you don’t see them advertising that over meat products.

        Also, the pyramid isn’t wrong… I love seeing the hypocrisy of people calling it out for promoting the over consumption of carbs, but not promoting the consumption of animal carcasses which makes you sick. Legumes should be your top choice over anything, high in protein, plant-based, very healthy for you! and for you “PROTEIN” lovers, it will do the trick. If you don’t like legumes, try meat alternatives that don’t have eggs or milk in it. Milk is a disgusting industry, and eggs are high in cholesterol.

    3. I only eat 1000 – 1200 calories a day and I am 5ft and weight 129. I make what I eat as healthy as I can. I do not eat bad carbs as it makes me sick so no breads or sweets. I do have to do a high protein diet. But with so much protein variations its not hard to meat and doesn’t have to cost much. Eggs and Beans are a huge plus.

  5. This meal plan shows what can be done with a few simple items and determination to save money. That being said, for ME it would never work because there are far too many carbs in the meals! Beans are healthy, complex carbs but jack my blood sugar up…as do rice and oats. Since we are one of many who LOST our affordable and adequate health insurance, thanks to that “affordable care act”, I can not afford prescriptions and doctor visits to control my blood sugar. It has forced me, thankfully, to make changes in my diet to control blood sugar and lose weight, but that means very low carb for me. Wish I could eat this way though and save a lot of money each week!

    1. I’m so sorry about your predicament! But I’m so glad you’ve been able to make positive changes toward wellness. 🙂

    2. For future readers, if beans spike your blood sugar levels or you don’t tolerate those carbs well, some people might try LENTILS instead. We’ve found we react differently to lentils. Also, black beans and rice seems to work better than pintos. So be aware of what your own body tolerates. Another option is garbanzo’s — make your own hummus, very easy.

  6. After just a quick review of the meal plan: white potatoes seem to play a featured role in many of the meals–I question the nutrition of such a choice, according to my alt. practitioner these are no better than junk food (or in his words, white trash foods). Cheese and grains also play a featured role–not much help to those of us who can’t eat either. And, beans, well check out the carb to protein ratio–are they really that healthy?

    1. Cauliflower can be cooked into a mashed potato alternative. Just a thought if you wanted to replace the white potatoes with something else

      1. Great idea! We LOVE cauliflower. Just keep in mind that it will significantly lower your calories. 🙂

      2. It also makes a GREAT rice substitute, I’ve found! I steam a bag of frozen cauliflower then chop into tiny pieces (a food processor would be quicker but I don’t have one). Of course if you absolutely hate cauliflower you may not like it, but we’ve found that when used to make a casserole type dish the other ingredients really hide the taste of cauliflower. I love to make Spanish “rice” with it. Not as cheap or easy as rice but a great low carb option.

    2. Your kidding right? Potatoes especially with the peeling scrubbed and left on have many nutrients in them. It’s what you may put on them that could be a problem. Cheese is a whole food as long as you’re not eating the processed types (high salt content). Eat in moderation and you will be fine. And do your own research.

    3. Hey there, I know this post is older. I would like to add however, that there is NEW information touting WHITE POTATOES – YES WHITE POTATOES as a healthy source of nutrition in meals. Yay!! I’ve always thought that potatoes can be an important part of a meal plan. Woo hoo!! Great options..

      1. That was the thinking many years ago that white food has no nutrition. I thought that had been debunked long ago.

  7. I make 20$ a week meals on a regular basis and I have to say its feasible and can be done with a lot more variety than I see in this plan. No offense, but your weekly menu is kind of repetitive and many people get bored with repetition. You have bean burritos listed 7 times for lunch and lots of white rice and potatoes which are just fillers and make you hungry not long after eating them. I would substitute the rice for Quinoa which packs a bigger punch and switch up the beans for red or brown lentils or chickpeas (hummus) which are also packed high in proteins and keep you full longer and I get bored easily of repetitive foods, I also make my own bread and tortillas which come out cheaper than store bought saving you save even more money there. Like you said, with a little effort, anything is possible. 🙂

  8. I make amazing meals for me and my husband on $50/week for both of us. I don’t mean to sound critical, so please don’t take this negatively. however, these don’t look like 2000 calorie menus to me. I keep our calories far below 2000 on more food than this with higher nutrition values. I buy lean ground beef, chicken, fish, eggs, and beans as our main protein sources. I buy tons of fresh vegetables: spinach, dark lettuce, cabbage, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, green peppers, broccoli, celery, and cauliflower.I skip potatoes and carrots. I also buy whatever berries are in season. One loaf of seven-grain bread lasts us two weeks. A half gallon of skim milk, a small package of feta cheese (for topping), butter (it takes a month to go through a pound), cooking spray or olive oil (which lasts ages), lo-cal salad dressing, and some almonds round out the list. We are losing weight (we need to) by making vegetables the main part of our meals. What I have listed above contains most of the main nutrients needed to be very healthy. I add spinach to almost everything because it is really difficult to taste when mixed with anything else, and it is very high in nutrition. I occasionally shop at Save-A-Lot (cheaper than Aldi here), but usually just at my small-town grocer who has good sales and fresh foods. There is an infinite number of meals using these ingredients, and we know we are getting our GOMBS for nutrition. (Greens, onions, mushrooms, berries, seeds…the essentials for good health) Btw, pasta is cheap and has many variations as well. Just thought I’d throw that in.
    I applaud your thriftiness and your desire to feed your family well on what you have.

  9. There are people all around the world who live off of beans and rice. They are happy and healthy individuals the only thing I see lacking in this is that the beans are not prepared with a traditional fat such as lard to boost the calorie count and the digestibility of the beans. Remember hunger in not a bad thing. We often eat while bored or because we think its simply time. Americans eat more today than ever before, and we move way less.

    1. I find it funny how there are so many around the world that are eating “well” on rice and yet there are millions of people starving everyday. I agree with the above poster who says this is a carb heavy diet. The numbers in America are showing a very heavy reliance on simple carbs, your white potatoes and white rice, which are NOT good sources of anything but starch. They have minimal vitamins and protein. I hope that someone who wants to save money drastically like this would also consider the nutritional counts here. Carb count shouldn’t be above 100 per day, less is even better. There are few if any healthy fats in this diet. Butter is mentioned once or twice and in an effort to save money, one might be tempted to buy margarine or some cheap alternative. A family would be better served making tallow from beef fat obtained by visiting a butcher, and adding that to meals. Just thinking that at times, it can be about more than just dollars and cents.

      1. I’m not following your logic here. The actual people who are actually starving are not the people who are eating well on beans and rice. And starch is an important and nutritious part of a diet. I’m not sure where you’re getting your “facts” about carb count shouldn’t be above 100 per day. It sounds to me like you’re following a specific diet that is working for you, and imposing it on everyone. Good luck with your niche diet. I’m happy that it is working for you.

    1. $8 assuming diesel is $3/gallon (it’s not, but I don’t remember the current price). Gotta love Volkswagon! 🙂

      Keep in mind that this trip cover all of our shopping, not just groceries. It’s the nearest town with good shoe stores, fabric stores, etc.

  10. I enjoyed your post. My husband & I just started living on the budget we will have when we retire at the end of the year. We wanted to find out the shortcomings while we still have paychecks. Our grocery budget is $26 a week for both of us. We eat very well on this amount by shopping the sales at Winn Dixie, Publix, Dollar General, Save A Lot, and Walgreens.

    I love the BOGO sales at Publix because they don’t raise the base price of the items. I buy marked down meat at Winn Dixie that is perfectly fresh. Recently, I bought 5 steaks that ranged in price from $2.37 to $2.60. Save A Lot has good prices on eggs, fruits and vegetables. Dollar General sells spices and baking goods cheaper than anywhere around here. Walgreens has great prices on dairy products, tuna, and tea bags.

    I work the menu around the specials and freeze the extras. Also, I don’t waste money on bread products when it only takes a few minutes to mix the ingredients for quick breads, biscuits, muffins, dumplings, tortillas, cupcakes, etc.

    I think the main reason our food budget works is that we avoid processed foods. I don’t slave away in the kitchen either. The average stove top meal takes 20-30 minutes. Slow cooker meals are almost no work at all.

    1. Thank you FFW for your post. I agree that if one seeks to save money and live on a tight budget it is possible. Many people do this daily out of necessity. Not everyone has the luxury of eating organic, or expensively. I appreciate your menu plan that you shared as well. I’m on a very tight budget and am always looking to learn and grow in this area.

      On your first post I noticed several people from CA mention high food prices. When I lived in CA I always found the produce to be much cheaper than from where I grew up/live now (New England). I do believe some items are higher than others in areas, but really it is what you make of it. There are pros and cons no matter where one lives.

      Diane, would love it if you could share some meal ideas or a grocery list. Best wishes on you and your husband’s retirement. Sounds like you will do well with all of your careful planning.

    2. I stopped buying processed foods years ago. Not only does my food dollar go futher, but I have taught myself a lot about nutrition. Some of the posts I’ve read here criticizing the article and recipes are absolutely silly. The article, like any information article, is meant as a guide, not the be-all, end-all. For goodness sake.

      If you don’t think white potatoes aren’t nutricious enough, use sweet potatoes, but do some of your own research first.

      Overall, I’ve gotten some terrific ideas from this article and list of recipes. I retired and am living on $20 a week for everything, including cat food. It’s a challenge I set for myself because I want to devote my time to doing all the things I couldn’t when I was working-often 2 jobs. Having to work a little harder to make the money stretch is worth it for me. Thank you again for your work putting this article and recipe list together.

  11. What I love about this post is that it really hits home that “variety” or the other things people are complaining are lacking in your meal plan, are actually just luxuries. By being honest that it is possible to eat healthfully off of $20/week, we can appreciate what the luxury foods and meals really are. Maybe luxury isn’t just gourmet food — maybe it’s that extra chicken leg, or bag of apples.

    1. Sometimes variety makes everything more difficult. Honestly any way I can simplify my life the better. I wish my boyfriend was a more simple eater. I am trying to get him more on board with a smaller budget and less frivilous menu lol.

      1. Variety is a budget buster for sure. Your article is a great jumping off point for people to think about paring down what they ‘have’ to have to eat. Many of us dont have the luxury of spending hundreds a week on convenience foods. Those of us over a certain age only ate home prepared meals (Sunday spaghetti and Saturday beans ring any bells?) made with relatively basic ingredients while a snack was whatever you could steal off the neighbors apple tree or berry bushes. It’s really a shame what a disservice we have done to our children giving them the idea they need colorful, addictive foodlike products. Great article.

  12. I love this! We have all gotten so used to variety we forget how it used to be and still is for many people. All the so called experts told us eggs were bad and now they are good again so as long as the food is not overly processed I’m going to form my own opinions.
    And no, your exact meal plan won’t work for us exactly the way it is, but that’s not the point, is it? I love the concept and the general plan. I am smart enough to tweak what works for you to make it work for me.
    Thank you for sharing and bringing some new ideas on how to save that extra little bit so we can reach our goal that much faster.

  13. I think this is an AWESOME post. We are, right now, in a money crunch like we have NEVER had before. This is because of putting braces on 2 teenage daughters. I absolutely do not regret this and I WILL NOT complain of the tightness of the cash. I am just grateful that you put this menu out there at just the time I am searching, on Pinterest, for cheap meals. Thank you so much for all your hard work and don’t let the haters hating get to you! 😉

    1. Thank you so much! I’m so glad this post could help you – that’s a huge blessing to me – and I LOVE your attitude! 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement.

    2. Off topic but I am so glad my parents put braces on me as a kid. At the time I didnt understand how expensive they were and obviousy wasnt thrilled about havign them in middle school but I couldnt be more grateful for them now. They will appreciate it!

    3. I just made a comment, but I’d like to agree with you, Catie. Learning to handle challenges, especially money challenges (!) helps us grow and mature. Doesn’t matter what our chronilogical age is. Get your children in on this new family challenge. They will learn about nutrition, food preparation, money, and working together as a family, something you cannot buy.
      I have met so many people who couldn’t make their own food, or how to budget. This is a great opportunity for you to grow as a family. You have a terrific attitude, and yes, your children will thank you for it eventually. Especially those braces!

  14. If you’re offended by this post, good! It means you care. This meal plan is reality for a lot of people in the US and abroad. We are very spoiled in that we have fruit and veggies year round that are not native or seasonal to our region. Food choices are very personal and impact our health, finances, and environment. You have to do what’s right for you, keeping in mind people make it work on a lot less. This post is a great jumping off point that there’s a bigger picture here and people should care about how much they spend and what they eat. Good post, keep’em coming Elise.

    If you’re concerned about caloric intake, the USDA’s 2010 report on p.14 is here:

    To see USDA recommendations based on cultural background, this is a good read:

  15. Your post was actually very encouraging. Young people raised in an era of (relatively) cheap food have been eating way too much for way too long, and over-all health in terms of diabetes and obesity has suffered in this country. I am an elderly woman now, but when I was a younger housewife in the 70’s and 80’s, food was expensive -more expensive than it is now, because there was way less cheap processed food.

    One thing I talked to my husband about recently was the idea of “too many food choices”. When we were struggling to feed a family back in the 70’s, my menu plan consisted of about four main dinner meals from which I seldom varied, and then usually only during holidays or special birthdays.

    We ate bacon and eggs or oatmeal -NEVER dry boxed cereal – most mornings for breakfast which kept us going until lunchtime, and then we still were not ravenously hungry. We usually ate soup or sandwiches for lunch, depending on the season, and then had a fruit (apple, banana, peach) or vegetable (carrot, celery) for an afternoon snack to tie us over ’til dinner. Again, dinner was usually one of four main entrees, and I believe the “boring” nature of eating the same foods over and over actually contributed to our good diet and to our slim and trim bodies. When I cooked dinner, and when our family sat down to eat dinner, we were not so enthralled by the exoticness of the meal, and we never over-indulged.

    Now, I find I pour over exotic looking dishes and actually salivate while looking at recipes! I know lots of ladies who do this as well! We are so in love with food that we have lost sight of the fact that it is to nourish us and to sustain us but not for us to obsess over!

    I am in the process of going back to my old ways of selecting and serving only 4 or 5 main entrees and to boring breakfasts that I know were nourishing and energy sustaining. Even though I can afford more food than was ever possible before, my health can no longer tolerate such a wide array of foods, especially processed foods.

    Thanks for the article. You are right on target.

  16. I LOVE bean and cheese burritos so I think your lunch options are great!!! My husband and I are saving for house. I noticed that we spend the most money on food that sometimes goes to waste bc we don’t buy things that go together and the good goes bad. This article is a huge help for making a shopping list and meal ideas. Thank you!

  17. I just want to add that even a family of four, with two under two(my son eats a lot, though), and with working parents can still make $20 a week doable. It would be hard, but doable. We, personally, make $40/week work for us and that’s with mostly organic food. I put a LOT of emphasis on non-meat proteins. We have soft-taco nights 2x a month and we do meatless Mondays, plus we eat only leftovers on Saturday night(if we have no leftovers, then it’s usually just a “fend for yourself” with ramen or a sandwich or something). My husband is a 20 year old man who works 14 hour days(and 8 hours every Saturday) in a hot factory building large, heavy machines. He goes to work with bean and cheese burritos(homemade, of course), tuna noodle casserole, and/or any leftovers that we have from the night before.or a hearty sandwich. He also takes snacks like hummus and carrots, cheese and sausage, apples and peanut butter, etc. I breastfeed, as well, and I work(albeit from home and at a desk, so not too much calorie usage going on there). My son eats a surprising amount of food for an 18 month old, as well, but that is because he’s hyperactive(moreso than other kids his age). He’ll eat half an apple, 3 or 4 chicken nuggets, some hummus with pretzels, boiled carrots, a go-gurt, and a full sippy cup of milk by himself in one sitting(and no, to anyone wondering: he’s not overweight or at all large in general; he’s actually a bit lanky for his height; he does, however, have a thyroid condition). We make it a rule to /always/ have some sort of a protein, even if it’s just a snack. We also try to avoid a lot of starch. We bulk up our recipes mainly with produce, and maybe a bit of whole grain pasta or rice. We buy our produce in season and in bulk when we can. Other ways that we cut costs is by buying milk only once every two weeks and just using the blue milk for us for recipes, and the red milk for Scott for drinking. For cereal or drinking for ourselves, we get almond milk. We used to drink coffee all the time, but now we limit ourselves to only two cups a day(except for him when he’s at work; he gets free coffee all day). We’ve both pretty much quit soda entirely, as well, by switching to sweet tea and flavored green and white teas. It’s easy to eat cheap and healthy if you just plan for it. If I can do it as a twenty year old working mom of two, I’m pretty sure anyone can.

    1. Kudos to you! You are more wise at 20 than most older adults I see. I too have an active 18 month old whom is petite despite eating all day. I would LOVE to share menu plans with you!

  18. ANother very cheap breakfast is banna egg pncakes. Sounds gross but i founf the recipe on pinterest and was very pleased! use 2 eggs, mashed banana and some cinamon to create pancake batter. Cook like regular pancakes. very tasty and healthy!

    1. Loved it! Found I had to have a large banana for the two eggs and cook it on a fairly low heat. My spice of choice is nutmeg.

  19. Thank you for sharing! I love the ideas although a little bland and repetitive. A few things we also do as a family that help keep our food bill in check … foraging (just this month we have picked FREE dew berries, loquats, pickly pears, agarita berries and dandelions … we take all we can get) These were all FREE. You can do some easy research online and find all kinds of FREE things to eat. I also feed lots of these things and lots of other things to my chickens which in turn give me lots and lots of EGGS. So having a few chickens really help with the food bill. And finally, my husband, kids and myself fish and hunt deer. My freezer is full of venison and fish from the lakes. ALL FREE! You can also ask people for seeds and make your own FREE garden. So many ideas and still did not spend ANY money!

  20. Thank you so much for writing this article. Because of some major health problems this year, I have had to cut a lot of my body and was introduced to clean eating by a few friends. I would make a few minor adjustments to your menu to meet my own personal health needs. This is amazing, and such an inspiration to me. I have been doing good at doing a week for $40-50. But now I will challenge myself and see if I can do it for 1/2 of that.

  21. Hi Elise, Thank you so much for putting this together. I find this so interesting and I’m up for trying it! I have one question- is the boiled egg on Thursday for slicing and putting on top of the soup?

  22. It sounds very much like the food I grew up on in the 50’s and early 60’s. We were sort of poor and my mom grew up on a farm and she was strict with the food! The snack sound the same, too. LOL We were allowed apples and carrots! Bananas were too expensive. I never had a banana unless I was visiting my aunt and she always had them waiting for me! Well, some times of year, we also could choose oranges. Once every week or so, we got popcorn (usually a Friday or Saturday night) and near holidays, we’d get popcorn with fudge (from the back of the Hershey’s box).

    Interestingly, I was a chubby baby who became skinny by age 5. I stayed thin until I married my husband. His mother was the Queen of Candy, Ice Cream, Desserts and Batter-fried food. I never liked the batter fried food, but I fell for the candy, ice cream and desserts and gained weight accordingly. I’m now pre-diabetic and like one of the other ladies who commented, need fewer simple carbs but for most people, I think this would be an okay diet. Usually, it is only when you ruin your body, as I did, that you can’t handle this amount of simple carbs.

  23. I wouldn’t consider this ‘healthy’. Lots of carbs, very little protein. For a person who is looking to lose weight and work out 3-5 times a week, more protein is needed. I think this is fantastic for people needing to save money, but I would not be able to use this. I eat 600 less calories than this per day with much more food.

  24. Your previous post and this one were super inspiring! Even more impressive that it’s gluten free. It won’t quite work for my husband and three boys (in addition to no gluten, they can’t do potatoes/corn/beans/any other grains/etc. *sigh*), but I I could use this for myself easily! Our grocery budget is insane because of their autoimmune issues, and I’m always looking for ways to get creative. Thanks so much for putting this together!

  25. This was shared in a Trim Healthy Mama saving money forum and I’m glad I read it again 🙂 Reading through the comments really brought home what a luxury variety is. I always remind my kids, if they complain about what’s served (thankfully they don’t often!), that many people in the world will go to bed hungry…again and we are blessed to have food.

    I’m inspired to find more ways to trim back the grocery budget and to do that I will need to limit variety more. We observe Shabbat and I like to make those meals special, so that can be our luxurious variety meal of the week 🙂

    I think I won’t tell hubby what I’m doing and after a month show him what I’ve been able to do. Thanks again for showing what can be done if you’re determined!

  26. This plan doesn’t feel very balanced at all too me, we add more veggies and fruit into our diet as opposed to all those carbs. I don’t see how this is very healthy at all, my mother is a dietician so I grew up eating a very healthy, balanced diet. I’m not saying this isn’t a decent plan for those on a very strict budget but to go as far to say this is really all that “healthy” seems incorrect.

  27. Thank you so much for this and God bless you for your work. I was just wondering, if you couldn’t use beans, what would be an alternative that you would pick that’s just as cheap? My husband is on dialysis and that much beans wouldn’t be good for his numbers. I guess they have a lot of phosphorous. which he has to keep in check.

  28. LOVED the comment about not leaving the table gorged! thank you, i agree just because you’re eating dinner doesn’t mean you need to roll away from the table! Kudos!

  29. It seems to me that many of the ‘negative’ comments stem from an assumption that this meal plan is ‘forever’ – which it wouldn’t be, right? My understanding is it would be a means to an end. Something you could do for a few weeks, or months even, to achieve a budget goal, then you could return to a more varied diet again. Thanks so much for posting these ideas, I’m going to be incorporating them into my budget somehow! If I can do this even every second week for a few months it will make a big impact on my personal economy! Best of luck with your own budget goals!

  30. Wonderful ideas of how to budget wisely and economically!! Especially for those who have to eat gluten free!!!! Keep up the great j9b of inspiring others! !!

  31. So, you had me until you listed the reasons this might not work for some people:

    c). You’re obese and can’t imagine sitting down to a meal where you don’t come away absolutely gorged.

    That comment was a real deterrent for me. I’m sure it wasn’t intended that way, but being overweight/obese isn’t always because people have to eat until they’re ‘absolutely gorged’. Medical issues can play a huge role in things too and it’s not always something that can be helped. A hysterectomy 3 years ago had put me on the borderline of being overweight/obese, even though I eat mostly whole food vegetarian with little grain or dairy. I don’t have a big appetite anyways, and am usually in the 1300-1500 cal range. I don’t skip breakfast, don’t eat late, and don’t eat crap. Not everyone is a fatty because they can’t imagine NOT eating until they’re stuffed.
    Maybe better wording could have been “if for some reason you require more than X calories per day.”? Just a suggestion, and thank you. 🙂

    1. I’m sorry this offended you. I do realize that not everyone who is overweight consumes large amounts of calories. The context was one of scenarios where 2,000 calories per day wouldn’t be enough (large, muscular person, person enduring intense training, or person supporting a large amount of fatty tissue).

      The truth is, the averaged sized female doesn’t consume over 2,000 calories per day.

      Again, I’m so sorry for the offense!

  32. I really appreciate the time and effort you put into this post and I think you responded to the nay sayers quite well. LOL!! I have a budget of $50 a week for myself, my 14 y/o son, and my 4 y/o son. This is for a lot more than just food!! My husband chooses to buy and prepare his own meals and is trying to eat for a $1 a day. Our menu is very repetitive and I guess boring but it’s what my kids will eat or go to bed hungry. JUST KIDDING!! kind of

    I just started learning how to coupon the “correct way.” Before I lost my job I couponed and saved hundreds every week but also spent hundreds every week. Now we were eating shrimp once a week and steak once a week. Not to mention our trips to McDonalds, Chick Fil A and Pizza Hut. It was a HUGE change. I grew up with a pantry, fridge and freezer full. So only having enough food enough for a week is really hard on me and makes me feel nervous and vulnerable.

    Again thanks for the post and keep up the good work

  33. I think this is awesome! I would think there are very few people who have NOTHING else to eat in the house. So, this menu, plus a lunch or breakfast here and there from your pantry/fridge would get you through a very tight budget crunch. You could buy what is listed and eat only some of these meals and then freeze the rest of the chicken and eat it the next week. This would be a great help during an “eat from the pantry” month. And your nutrition would certainly not suffer long term from eating the same thing every day for lunch and dinner for a week. The people who preach only organic, non GMO blah blah blah must always have enough grocery money. While it would be awesome to be able to afford eating like that, some people just do not have that much money. THIS is what is needed when you just don’t have the money.

  34. Great post. It isn’t what most people would probably consider unless they were in a have to situation or like you said, want to save $ for something else. I’m keeping this since I just lost my job at age 60.

  35. A simple snack options are home-made potato chips.

    Plane potatoes lengthwise in a mandolin. Brush potato slices on both sides with olive oil. Add the potato slices on the baking tray. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees celsius. Turn the slices after 12 minutes, let go another 6 minutes. Remove when golden brown. Add on paper towels. Add then in a bowl and season with salt.

    The recipe also works well with sweet potatoes, beets …

  36. Don’t forget if you got oatmeal you got muffins, scones, pancakes, bread, and you can make a smoothie out of oatmeal. Just pour milk and some oatmeal in a blender add sugar and even fruit if you want and blend it. It;s good. Also if you have oatmeal you have overnight oatmeal. Just add oatmeal to a mason jar with milk and add fruit on top or brown sugar or honey. Put it in the fridge overnight. Next morning take it out take off the lid and eat. It is so good in the summer!

    If you got rice why not make a rice pudding for breakfast or for dessert? The basic supplies of a pantry are geared towards a variety of foods from a small amount of food. If you have rice,oatmeal,flour and cornmeal you have enough staples for hundreds of meals. You can make all sorts of rice dishes,oatmeal dishes (oatmeal pie is delicious as is oatmeal stuffing I know but take my word for it! I have even added it to our Thanksgiving and Christmas Menu and everyone LOVED it!) There are so many things you can make with somethings so simple. Also a box of cornmeal is versatile as well. Corn cakes, cornbread, corn muffins, cornmeal patties ( I used a can of corn with these and they were so good) Corn pancakes, corn meal mush (so good kids will LOVE IT especially on a cold day in winter)

    Cornmeal can also be used in a manicure, pedicure and as a facial as can oatmeal. It leaves the skin soft and smooth! All this goodness in a package! Versatile and delicious!

  37. Heu I think what you posted is cool, cause really even if these nay sayers want extra food for them change the plan to $30 a week and add their what ever, but beats 150 or 200 a week.
    Kudos to you!

  38. Even if i shopped @ my local Aldi’s. I can’t buy @ those cheap prices. I wish. These prices are from the late 80’s early 90’s. No offense.

  39. I’m surprised that so many people find these prices unrealistic! My SO and I eat very well for $160-$200 per month (and that includes buying more than we need, as we’ve spent $150 for the last two months on food while we eat down the pantry/freezer and we’ve got plenty more to go). We also shop almost exclusively at Aldi. A lot of these foods in your plan are similar to what we eat (though we get in more fruit and meat variety).

  40. I can see why some people would consider this menu to be inadequate or not enough food. But, I am with you on this. This menu does give a person plenty of food. When my wife and I eat out we frequently purchase one meal and split it. When we eat at home (most of the time) our menu looks very similar to yours. The biggest problem most people have is they don’t know what one serving looks like. the second largest problem is most people are use to over eating and don’t know it.
    Thank you for a wonderful article.

  41. If you are going to calories only this is fine, but if you have a child they are going to need a lot more nutrients and fruits and veggies than you are offering here. This is fine in lean times if you have no choice, or if you heavily supplement but there is not enough greens and not enough iron rich foods for any woman with a normal or heavy flow. Not enough protien for anyone that is working out or doing hard labor for a living. It should be quality, look for what is on sale that week and plan for more than a week ahead. It may be you spend an extra $20 this week on a ham, but it is on sale and enough pork for a month if you portion it out and freeze. If you can only afford $20 a week maybe think about selling plasma where you can do it 2x a week and get between $30-50 each time. If there are 2 healthy adults that is more than enough to supplement your food budget until you get a 2nd job, overtime, or pay off whatever needs to be paid. These rations are just that, this is not realistic long term because there isn’t enough variety for a healthy diet.

  42. There was a line in The Simpsons where Marge said she feeds the family on $12/ wk. This got me thinking if that could be possible. Then, this article, especially the comments, made me realize just how good I have it to be able to blow $100+/wk. on groceries for just myself. It really is quite absurd that I couldn’t cut back. Then again, I am over 6′ and very active. (I work in construction.)

  43. I found this post and the comments very interesting. Even though it’s several years old. I believe that the prices are not that much different…you just have to check for the sales and allow for your part of the country. I’m in the Seattle area and have no Aldi’s and do all my shopping at Fred Meyer(Kroegers). I’ve never seen quarter leg chicken sections but the chicken thighs go on sale for $.89 a pound frequently. This week, ground beef in 3 pound packs is $1.97 so I’m stocking up. House brand frozen vegs are $.99 a 12 oz pack. Fresh vegs are higher than what’s listed but that may be the seasonal variation.

    For those commenting on the lack of variety in this menu, I took it as a guideline. Maybe the next week ground beef or ham will be on sale with a new set of recipes. I’m pretty sure Elise’s family hasn’t been eating this menu for the past three years. Even if, there are lots of ways to change it up without adding a lot of $$ to the grocery bill. Take the night of chicken and steamed veggies and add some spaghetti and make lo mein. Eat one more breakfast of oatmeal and use those eggs to make egg fu young…eggs, cabbage and onion along with some soy sauce. This also give the taste buds a break from all the beans. Instead of burrito for lunch, take the beans and cheese for a green salad with lettuce, spinach and a handful of frozen peas, For snacks add some cucumber and radish to the carrots and celery. There are lots of ways this menu and shopping list can be customized for more flavor and variety with little or no additional cost. Thank you for the ideas and guidelines, Elise.

  44. I read this article and decided to try it for my family of 6 which consists of one 6.5lb man, senior with cancer, Busy mom who logs 5+ hours in the gym a week, and 3 littlest ones under 6 years of age (2 have gluten and dairy sensitivities). We spent $56 for a week and a half (including diaper and wipe purchase). My budget was $60. We ate healthy organic food. We did splurge a little on dairy free cheese and butter. I found a GF tortilla brand at the dollar tree and stocked up. I’m pretty impressed. Thanks for the motivation!

  45. If you get the chance, try shopping at the HEB in Waco, the prices are considerably lower than other Central Texas HEBs. I found in college (right when this was written!) I could easily do my grocery shopping for 1 person around $20 without going to Aldis.

    1. Sweet! The Aldi up on Valley Mills drive is always so busy I never go, but I’ll have to try it next time I’m in Waco.

  46. Not a naysayer, I enjoyed and appreciate the article but did find your comment about 2000 calories offensive. I am counting calories on a daily basis and have lost 20 lbs, I certainly don’t need 2000 calories and am not eating that right now but I used to eat 2000-2400 a day and was not very, very large. I was actually a size 14 which is average for adult women in America and I’m quite short. Just putting that out there because I’m sure some of your readers might find those comments to be a bit rude. I maintained a size 14 at over 2000 calories a day so it doesn’t equate very very large.

  47. I tried 2 separate family emails and your $20 plan did not go to either. I thought they were free, but I guess it was just another pass on.
    I enjoy your site but hate when you don’t share unless you purchase.

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  49. Im trying this out and got pretty close to the $20. Im realizing I dont need to much cheese or cabbage and I bought ahead and several things so I think I can easily do it over the month. THIS IS SO MUCH FOOD! Besides the chicken and eggs I dont know how Im gonna eat it all but we’ll see. Definitely wont starve 🙂

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