Here's Exactly How I Stretch My $120 Grocery Budget To Feed My Family Of Five For A Week

Hi! I’m Sydney, a stay-at-home mom of three, and I make homemade meals for my Colorado family every week.

Author with her daughter

That increase may come as no surprise to any fellow frequent grocery shoppers. I think it’s fair to say that between inflation, shrinkflation, and rising costs on food, gas, and just about everything else — many of us are feeling the crunch of stretched budgets.

Still, each weekend — with that budget in mind — I plan all my family’s meals for the upcoming week. This includes choosing the recipes I will make plus the actual shopping. I cook pretty much every meal every day due to a severe peanut allergy in my household. We don’t rely on much takeout for this reason.

Various recipes online

When planning each week, I start by looking at my local grocery store’s weekly sales so I know what items will get me the most bang for my buck. This first step has become more important than ever to my planning and budgeting lately.

Weekly sales flyer

With meal planning, up-front preparation is key — but it’s also the most challenging thing. Here are a few tips and tricks that I use each week:

1) I pick recipes with ingredients that can be used for multiple meals (and in multiple ways). This also includes getting creative with leftovers. Sometimes, eating leftovers all the time can get old, but I try to remember that I can always use different components of my leftovers to create new meals.

2) I prioritize what’s on sale. For example, this week I was able to find a variety of cheeses, ground beef, chips, and many pantry and produce items on sale.

3) Clip your digital coupons! You can find lots of additional savings by clipping digital coupons (found on store websites or apps). Some items may not be on sale, but could have great savings with a coupon. Conversely, some of the advertised sales state that you need the digital coupon to take advantage. This is easy to miss, especially if you’re shopping in store. When you look at the fine print, you often see that even though the item is advertised as “on sale,” if you don’t have that digital coupon clipped, the price can be a lot more expensive!

4) I buy the cheapest store brand most of the time. Unless it’s something that I’m unable to use due to the peanut allergy, an item I absolutely love (or if a different brand is on sale), store brand it is.

5) I ask my kids to help me. Feeding kids is a challenge. They change their minds constantly, and they seemingly get new taste buds every meal. When I ask them to help pick out recipes (usually with them looking at pictures), I find that they are more excited to eat them. I will also let them pick what they want for their lunch/snack fruit and veggies for the week!

Also, my kids are small! They do not have the same appetites as teenagers or fully grown adults. I’m aware that my grocery budget will need to increase as they get older.

The author's children

Also, I’m not a chef. I’m a parent who cooks meals for her family. I learn things as I go and pick recipes that seem manageable for me to keep up with — as I also try and be present with my family.

After planning my recipes this past Sunday, I spent $118.12 for a week’s worth of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks. I normally start my weeks on a Saturday or a Sunday, but this week, I started my meals on Monday. I shopped Monday early in the day and started cooking my meals in the evening.

Weekly Cost

As you continue to build your pantry, it’s easier to spend within budget because you’ll utilize staples you have already acquired. But for the purpose of this post, several pantry staples (like flour, oats, brown sugar, etc.) were included in the $118 I spent. The only staples I did not include were oils and spices.

Here was this week’s grocery haul! I get my groceries delivered because it keeps me from impulse purchases, saves me a lot of time, and if anyone has ever brought three young kids to a grocery store, well…you know it’s a losing game.

Picture of all groceries purchased

Before I get into the thick of things, I want to address that I do grocery delivery, and this cost is NOT included in my food budget. I choose to do delivery (as opposed to free pickup) for two reasons:

1) I do not drive often: I can count on one hand the times I drive in a month, and it is not in the direction of the store. 

2) Quality control: For my specific grocery store, pickup is done by the grocery store employees, and there is very little communication that happens with the person shopping your list. When I choose delivery, my order is fulfilled through Instacart. I prefer this option because if anything needs a substitution or an item is out of stock, the shopper immediately texts me with pictures and possible replacements for that item.

One other thing to mention when it comes to portioning out meals in my home: My husband comes home for lunch every day, but he doesn’t eat breakfast every day — which, BTW, I 100% disagree with because breakfast is the best.

Here’s how the week went!


As soon as my groceries were delivered, I noticed the spinach was already in distress. I knew I had to use it immediately, which led me to make Italian sausage orzo for dinner.

Ingredients used in recipe

The entire recipe is made in one pot, which is extremely helpful when it comes time for cleanup!

food cooking on stove top

Again, because this recipe called for baby spinach and I bought regular spinach, I de-stemmed, rinsed, and gave the spinach a rough chop to create smaller pieces.

A strainer of spinach

After all was said and done, this recipe came together in about 30 minutes. I sprinkled crushed red pepper flakes on the top of the adults’ plates and left them off for the kids.

Plated orzo dish

We ended up having some leftovers of this dish, but not enough for all five of us for lunch the next day.


After we had the leftovers packed away, we headed to the playground to get some final energy out before bedtimes. ?

Author's daughter at the playground


My son’s school moved the start time an hour earlier this year, which means I need to make breakfast and pack school lunch as soon as my feet hit the ground, at the exact same time. Thankfully, one of my family’s favorite breakfasts is pretty hands off and quick to prepare: oatmeal!

For my son’s lunch, I boiled a few frozen meatballs in some broth and put them in the thermal area of his lunchbox to keep warm. I also packed some celery and apples, per his request.

Once my son was out the door, I knew I needed to get some snacks for the week in the works. My kids love a particular store-bought mini muffin, but the logistics of it all just don’t make sense to me. So we make our own. ? When I saw the recipe for these pancake mini muffins, I knew we had to try it out!

Ingredients for pancake mini muffins

To say things got off to a smooth start would be an exaggeration. We immediately had one egg cleanup and one baby doll needing a “tubby” due to some very eager helpers.

cracked egg on counter

Once we got back on track, things came together quickly. I made the pancake batter and then let the kids give it a stir.

The recipe states this should make 24 mini muffins, but we ended up having around 36! It also says you can store these in the fridge up to a week, which was perfect because that’s exactly what I intended to do.

We then headed off to gymnastics for the remainder of the morning!

Author's daughter playing with toys

Another thing I noticed with my grocery haul was that the broccoli felt a little limp. I knew I needed to use it quickly, so I pulled out the recipe for sheet pan teriyaki veggie stir fry.

ingredients for recipe

This recipe was cooked in two phases — first the chicken, carrots, and peppers. Then all the rest!

I often get asked what my kids do while I’m cooking. I try my best to have activities (even just coloring or helping me chop veggies) for them to do. They also have a variety of toys for imaginative play. Today, this little basketball hoop provided LOTS of entertainment.

author's daughter building a basketball hoop

And in what felt like no time, dinner was ready. My son doesn’t like rice, so his is without.

Plated dinners

We ran off to dance to learn a new routine for a big football game coming up on Friday.

Author's daughter learning a dance

In true parent fashion, my husband and I finally got the kids home and we ate hours later.

stir fry in a bowl


On Wednesday morning, we kept things simple with some reliable oatmeal.

author's daughter eating oatmeal

On a normal day, I do my best to get the kids outside after breakfast. I find that my kids have better days if we make sure to spend a good amount of time outside each day.

I ended up having a last-minute lunch meeting pop up once we got home, so my husband and I just reheated the stir fry and I cooked some meatballs on the stove for the kids. I served these with carrots, apples, and blueberries!

My son’s lunchbox had the last of the Italian sausage orzo.

picture of lunch box

After lunch, we played with the craft box!

author's daughter

Before heading to the playground next, I decided to get some homemade bread started. I was really envisioning some warm bread with butter and jam.

ingredients for bread

I’ve made yeast-free recipes in the past, but I definitely prefer a recipe that includes it! The first steps of this recipe are to mix warm water, yeast, and sugar. I then used the dough hook on my mixer to combine the rest of the ingredients.

I shaped the dough into a loaf pan and set it to rise yet again!

By mid-afternoon, dreams came true. Warm bread, butter, and sloppy jam.

a slice of bread with butter and jam

After another meeting and a few more crafts, dinnertime was here before I knew it. I pulled out all the ingredients for cheesy beef enchilada tortellini skillet.

dinner ingredients on the counter

When I was inputting my groceries for delivery, I found a larger bag of tortellini for nearly the same cost as some other smaller, brand name bags. I opted for the bigger bag so that I could have leftover for lunches later on in the week.

Although it was a mistake, I think mixing the cheese in was a better choice for my family. As soon as my kids see any golden brown, they say the cheese is burnt and won’t eat it.


My kids woke up on Thursday with just one request: homemade bread and jam for breakfast!

breakfast on a plate

My son went off to school, and we were off to music class!

the author and her daughters

After moving, grooving, and singing our hearts out, we were hungry. Thankfully, we had a decent amount of leftovers from the night before.

Now I need to fess up. My family ate that entire loaf of bread in…less than 24 hours. So, I made more! This time splitting the dough into two, smaller loaves.

freshly baked bread on stove

By Thursday afternoon, thunderstorms were starting to move in, and I was craving some comfort food. One Skillet Chicken with Green Beans and Mushrooms seemed like a good fit.

dinner ingredients

In what revealed itself to be a theme for my week, this recipe is made in one pot!

I enjoyed the simplicity of this meal. The crisp green beans complemented the soft mushrooms perfectly!

dinner in a bowl


Friday started off a bit chaotic as I tried to get my son out the door for school. I quickly made up some scrambled eggs and called it good.

Our normal lunch time was approaching, and the work in the kitchen was still wrapping up. I knew I needed to keep things simple.

Friday evening meant two things. First, it was the night of the big dance performance. Second, it was slider night. For the last month or so, I have been on a kick of trying as many different slider recipes as possible. This time I picked Philly Cheesesteak Sliders.

dinner ingredients

It took me a few moments to dice my onion and bell pepper, and then I sautéed them. I gave the roast beef a rough chop and added it to the pan. A bit of broth and a gravy packet made a nice, thick consistency for everything once it was all put together.

I kept it easy with a side of my favorite potato chips. If you were really feeling wild for a Friday night, you could even serve with a pickle.

Philly cheesesteak sliders on a plate

After dinner, the excitement set in as we arrived at the college football stadium for my daughter’s dance performance.


Feeling a little sleepy from the night before, I finished off the rest of our oats with oatmeal for breakfast.

oatmeal in a bowl

And the busy Saturday commenced. We had two birthday parties to attend on Saturday — with a long commute to one. Thankfully, lunch was supplied, so I didn’t need to worry about that part on Saturday.

author's son painting

We didn’t arrive home until pretty late. Thankfully I had some sliders left over from the night before.

leftover philly cheesesteak sliders


On Sunday, I needed to start getting my creative juices flowing. I was out of oats, and I didn’t have enough eggs left to make scrambled eggs for everyone. I went back to my pantry basics and made Czech Crepes.

For lunch I sliced some of the white bread and made grilled cheese sandwiches.

And the rest of our day was filled with another birthday party and watching dad play a little bit of hockey.

I knew that we would have a busy afternoon, so I pulled out all of the ingredients for Greek Meatballs and Orzo Skillet immediately after lunch.

dinner ingredients

Before leaving for the birthday party, I combined the meatball ingredients in a bowl, and my husband rolled them into balls and placed them on the sheet pan while I was gone.

The orzo in this recipe had a really bright, lemon flavor to it that really brought it home, though the Greek meatballs probably weren’t my favorite version of them.

meatballs in a bowl


On Monday morning I made French toast and drizzled it with a bit of honey.

french toast cooking in a pan

As a morning activity, my daughters played “hair salon” and came up with new and inventive hairstyles that I’m sure will be the next big trend on TikTok.

author's daughter

School lunch was the remaining frozen tortellini, leftover sweet peas from the stir-fry earlier in the week, and apples.

And that was my entire week! I felt good about the week knowing I had utilized everything to the best of my ability. I did still have a few random things leftover (like enchilada sauce), but I felt good about the minimal waste.

The hard reality is that with rising costs of, well…everything, I did need to increase my grocery budget by $20/week in order to meet my individual family’s needs — but that’s my reality right now, and I think I’ve adapted well.

Also, based on some past comments I’ve received, I just want to reiterate that this meal plan isn’t meant to be one-size-fits-all.

Your household may have larger appetites, bigger families, older kids, and/or a higher cost of living that would require a bigger budget all around. Just keep in mind the main takeaway of planning, budgeting, and organizing. 

Still, I hope that this provides some inspiration for new recipes, new planning ideas, or how to work with whatever your budget may be. You can find more of my articles with weeks’ worth of plans here!

Sydney's articles on BuzzFeed

For more, follow me on Instagram at @sydneyinsuburbia. That’s where I give step-by-step breakdowns on how I plan my weeks, shop, and cook — hopefully helping you to do it, too!

the author and her family

Tell me what you’re making for your family this week in the comments below!

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