How to Feed a Family for Less Than $400 a Month

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How much do you expect it would cost a family of four to eat for a month WITHOUT coupons? I did the painstaking math and have discovered that it is possible to feed a family for less than $400 a month.

My Extreme Cheapness at the Grocery Store

feed a familyWhen I wrote the article, “25 Examples of My Extreme Cheapness“, many of you questioned how I could survive on just $32 a week for food. And, quite honestly, I didn’t think I was being all that stingy with my grocery selections. Whole grain bread, fresh chicken, green beans: these are the types of foods that I would regularly pick up from the grocery store. From this discovery, I figured that I could get even more wise with my grocery selections and could potentially feed a family for under $100 a week, and maybe even less than $400 a month. The challenge was on and I got to work.

Finding the Food Without Coupons

One of the most amazing features of this post is not that I was able to feed a family of four for less than $400, but that I could do it without the use of coupons.

I absolutely hate coupons.

A few years ago I saw a news special that showed a lady buying a full cart of groceries and only owing $1.16 (or some obscenely low price anyway) for the heaping supply of food. I was so excited about this that I decided to try my hand at extreme couponing. I scoured, I clipped, I went to the “right grocery stores”, and in the end I found myself saving only 30% off my grocery bill. On top of that, I also found myself buying a whole bunch of stuff that I didn’t even want! My grocery bills were slightly lower, but my consumptive happiness was suffering, and I certainly was never able to buy an entire cart of groceries for less than $2.00! After a few failed attempts, I considered couponing to be a complete waste of time.

With couponing in my mental trash can, what else could I do to keep my grocery expenses low? It was pretty simple really. Instead of shopping at the regular grocery store, I decided to start checking out the discount grocery stores. From this exploration I was able to find a wonderful store called Aldi and I’ve never looked back since the discovery. Aldi’s prices are consistently cheaper than Walmart and any other store that you can think of. You won’t find any brand names (but don’t worry, the Aldi brands are better) so there is absolutely no use for coupons. After having shopped there for years now, I can safely say that it’s my kind of place. Easy in, easy out, and for a cheap price.

The Food, Prices, and Servings

In order to prove my case with all of the proper specifics, I began by accumulating a comprehensive list of foods, prices, and serving sizes in which I would feed a family of four. Here are the foods I have selected:

feed a family of four

 

As you can see, many of the food selections are healthy, yet are fairly inexpensive (Note: the ham and turkey are whole and are purchased during the discount seasons – all others are regular everyday prices). Also, after recording the number of servings that each food would provide, I decided that the serving size of many of these foods was completely unrealistic. If I was truly going to feed a family of four on a tight budget, I was going to provide a reasonable serving size. So, for many of the items above you will see that I decreased the number of servings that each product claimed to provide.

The Meal Plan

Finding prices and serving sizes hasn’t yet proved anything. In order to prove that I could feed a family of four for less than $400, I needed to put together meal plans. Take it easy on me though – I’m certainly no chef. Here is a sample week of foods for the family.

feed a family

 

Not too shabby right? Also, for these meal plans it should be known that all four members of the family are treated as adults and will be provided with adult portions. Let’s walk through my Sunday meal plan as an example. For breakfast, the family is served 8 eggs, 4 slices of toast, and orange juice. For lunch, each member of the family is provided with a sandwich consisting of 2 slices of bread, 2 slices of lunch meat, 1 slice of cheese, a healthy portion of head lettuce, one banana, and 2 granola bars. For dinner, each adult is served a full chicken breast, pasta, and vegetables.

Here is the summary of what was consumed on day one, along with the total cost:

feed a family

On day one, the entire family has eaten a well-balanced meal for a cost of $10.44.

The Cost For the Week

The cost for the entire week was derived with the same exact process as I showed you for Sunday’s meal. When I added up all of the food that was needed from Sunday through Saturday, the total servings and amounts came out as follows:

feed a family

So for one week, I could feed a family of four for just $86.07! Isn’t that unbelievable? Taking this one step further, if a month had 31 days, then the monthly grocery bill would equate to $381.16, which is $18.84 less than the $400 I promised you! Therefore, if you think I skimped on something like milk, spices, or snacks, then you could simply just buy it with the remaining $18.84 and still come in under the $400 mark.

Would you have thought I could feed a family of four for less than $400?Β 

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23 comments to How to Feed a Family for Less Than $400 a Month

  • You could do a bit better by simply omitting all of the grains (especially all “foods” containing wheat) and sugar (e.g. jelly). For milk & cereal, substitute one egg and maybe a slice or two of bacon. Simply omitting the pasta, crackers, etc. (replace with cheese, eggs, cold cuts, veggies, meat & fish) you will find that your appetite is substantially reduced, and you may find some really surprising health improvements. At no extra food cost, and maybe slightly less (your portions will shrink when you go to more nutrient-dense foods).

    Another thing you can cut is the commercial mayo. All commercial mayo (and salad dressing) without exception is made by people who either think soybean oil is food, or think you are stupid enough to think soybean oil is food. Homemade mayo (I use either olive or avocado oil) is not only much cheaper, but much more nutritious. And ridiculously easy to make. Same for homemade salad dressing.
    Howard recently posted..Paleo Achieves FAD Status!

  • JD

    I can say I am glad I will not be eating your menu. Eat it or starve.

    • Seriously? I am 6’8″, 205 pounds, and I eat exactly what is laid out in this meal plan. Plus, I am fairly active as I exercise about 30 minutes every day. You think this is too little food? Does anyone else think there isn’t enough to eat here in this plan?

  • Natalie Eastaugh

    Howard, you are quite right, and the shift to Paleo, which my partner and I did some months ago certainly squashed the hunger pangs and wasn’t as expensive as we thought it may be!

  • I think this is a great menu, and also very sufficient for a family of four. I also budget for the cereal food and the nutrient rich food to make sure that everything runs within my budget lines.

  • You certainly can feed a family of 4 for less than $400 a month….and if your budget is tight this is a great example of how it can be done. But I wouldn’t want to. Groceries is something I don’t mind spending a little more on – in fact, once we dispensed with our credit card debt the grocery budget amount is the first that got an increase. Cooking great food at home makes you less likely to go out to eat. Also, I love food, and I love cooking so it’s fun for me to cook up a great meal for my family.
    Travis @enemyofdebt recently posted..Defining Phenomenal

    • Yup, I totally agree Travis. This by no means is the absolute best way to eat, but for those that are looking to cut back on their grocery budget I think it works quite well. Once money is no longer tight, one can add a few delicacies here and there. Thanks for the comment!

  • Aditi K

    As a grad school student, I always like to plan my meals to eat healthy while keeping my expenses low since I have student loans to pay off. But I never thought it could be done even for a family of 4! You make it sound so easy. I currently spend about $150 or so a month on food. I am going to take some ideas from your sample meal plan to save even more money. Thanks!

    • Keeping your grocery budget under $150 isn’t bad at all! But, if you can find those deals on complete hams and turkeys, cook them yourself, and then freeze what you’re not eating, that can be a huge savings to you in the long run. Let me know if you’re able to reduce your grocery spending in the near future. Thanks for the comment Aditi!

  • Grace W

    I noticed that your grocery purchase doesn’t include fresh vegetable and fruit. I find Aldi has a great selection of fresh fruit and vegetable. Planning purchase with the weekly special in my mind, I can get a week’s fruit (about 7-10 pounds) for a little more than $5; spending another $5 to $10, I can have many variety of vegetables. These two sections are my favorite; they are very healthy too.

    • Hey, I had bananas! πŸ˜‰ Truth is, I’m not a big veggie guy so it’s hard for me to incorporate them into this meal plan that I made. I do like bananas though, so they are in there. Thanks for the extra pointer on the fresh fruit and vegetables – I think it was necessary! πŸ™‚

  • I see little to no red meats, which I’ve found can be quite expensive. I do love me a good steak from time to time though. I have found however I can get a really nice price on a 1kg pack of pork or beef cut up for stir fry. I assume this is where the ‘leftovers’ go into. Considering this is excellent to make batch meals out of to freeze, I buy it quite a bit.
    Nina @ RichLife.io recently posted..Using your to-do manager like a productivity pro

  • Aditi K

    I took inspiration from your post and planned my meals wisely. I reduced my grocery bill to just $105 this month-and this includes meals prepared using salmon and chicken! This was fun πŸ™‚

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