Living On a $40 a Week Food Budget

*This is a long, very in-depth post!*

The other day I was speaking to a mother in one of my local mom groups on Facebook who needed help keeping her family fed. I asked her if she meal planned, as obviously we do, and only spend about $40 per week on groceries. My notifications blew up pretty quickly with numerous mothers asking the secret of how we do it.

The secret? Honestly, there isn’t one. We do it because we have to.

We are not poor. We are blessed to make significantly more than most young adults our age do but we primarily live completely off my husband’s income. We live in society where the cost of living is significantly higher than the income you receive. We live in a city where the average household makes over six figures and the average home price is $715,826. We will never come close to being able to afford to live here comfortably. And like most lower to middle class families, we live on a strict budget as one major financial disaster could devastate us.

So, like I said, we do it because we have to. Because we need every extra cent to save up for moving out of Florida, buying our first home, and being more financially secure. I would love to spend more money on groceries, we are in many ways limited in what we are able to buy. I wish we could have more fresh fruits and vegetables. More variety of meats and meal options. But for now, I am perfectly happy with how we eat and our grocery budget. It’s only temporary.


  • Let me begin by saying that this takes time. If you do not already cook every single day, the initial costs WILL be higher as you WILL have to begin building your pantry.
  • The $40 a week does not include meat. We budget ourselves 2 pounds of ground beef and 2 pounds of chicken per week. We buy all of our meats in bulk from Sam’s Club every 5 weeks. (Shout out to our grandparents who added us to their plan. You’re the best! ❤️) If you don’t have a wholesale membership, I would definitely recommend investing in one. You will pay it off a million times over in what you save every year. If not, Wal-Mart bulk prices are comparable to Sam’s. Meat to us is an “upfront” cost in our budget but if you incorporate it, it’s about $45-48 a week.
  • The $40 for us feeds our family of 4. 2 adults, a 5 year old, and 2 year old. It covers one dinner and one lunch the next day. I will touch briefly on breakfast but it is a very minor factor in our budget.

    The Process

    Let’s get down to the nitty gritty! 🙂

    Every Sunday I plan our entire meals for the week. I rely heavily on my own recipes, my recipe index, and Pinterest. I always allot 2 pounds of ground beef and 2 pounds of chicken, either divided or used as one.

    Start and save a default shopping list template. You can use mine, (here).

    After, plan out how many meals you will need. Every Thursday we have cheer for T so we always eat sandwiches at the gym because we are there all night.

    I’ve made a shopping list and menu for example:


    On Sunday; I will need one bell pepper, one box of rotini, one can of Rotel, one box of pasta, and one box of chicken broth. Every thing else, I already have.
    On Monday; one bag of cheese, two cans of chili with beans, and one bag of carrots.
    On Tuesday; 2 pounds of red potatoes, one can of crescent rolls, one can of corn, and one bag of cauliflower.
    Wednesday; mushrooms, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, noodles, garlic bread, and green beans.
    Thursday; one loaf of bread and strawberries. I already have peanut butter and jelly.
    Friday; one bag of egg noodles, one can of corn, and crescent rolls.
    Saturday; one bag of bagels, pizza sauce, cheese, and broccoli.

    You get the gist? I choose the recipes, use what I already have (all the seasonings, meats, etc.,) and only add the rest. I almost have just about everything that I need.

    I created an order on Walmart Grocery to show you everything all together:


    Total? $41.35. 😀

    What About Meat?

    We love our protein! That’s one of the things I’m looking forward to the most when we are more financially stable is ALL THE MEAT. Salmon, pork, steak! All the good stuff. We have it occasionally but I can’t wait to have it more.

    As I mentioned previously, we purchase all our meat in bulk. We buy 10lbs of lean, ground beef in a tube from Sam’s and 6-7lbs of chicken breasts. It’s about $25 for meat and $13 for chicken. We then weigh out the meat pound by pound and freeze each individual pound. Then when I need it, I defrost it the night before. It’s extremely simple and unbelievably cost effective. But as I mentioned, Wal-Mart’s bulk pricing is very similar.


    Breakfast is unfortunately pretty boring for us, something I hope that will change in the future. Currently my husband makes a large pot of oatmeal at the beginning of the week that lasts him all week. He uses real oats that are much healthier than packaged oatmeal and is only $2 for about 4 weeks of breakfast. My kids usually eat Multi-Grain Cheerios while I normally don’t eat breakfast at all. So breakfast is always the easiest meal for us.

    Where to Shop?

    I primarily do all of our shopping at Wal-Mart. Thankfully our produce is pretty good at our Wal-Mart. I never shop at grocery stores, such as Publix, as they are extremely expensive. I only shop there if they’re having a phenomenal bogo. But usually my favorite store to shop at, is of course, Target. 😉 A lot of people think that Target is too expensive but almost all of their prices are comparable to Wal-Mart. And, if you download their Cartwheel app, almost all of their store brands have an additional discount. They have absolutely phenomenal deals on Cartwheel most of the time. If you haven’t, I would also recommend opening up a Target debit RedCard for another 5% off.

    And of course, I primarily buy almost all store brand items. They’re exactly the same, if not better, than name brand.

    How Does this Help?

    Putting aside the monetary aspect, meal planning will help a lot. Not only are you saving money but you are eating considerably healthier than if you were to eat out or buy any sort of fast food. By planning out everything you need, you are then limiting yourself the amount of unnecessary foods that you don’t need. We don’t have any snacks, candy, etc., therefore we never find the need to eat them. And while these meals may not be the absolute healthiest, organic meals, they are still good for you especially if you are on a considerably tight budget such as myself.

    All in All,

    That about wraps it up! As I mentioned before, you will have to build up your spices, pantry, etc., before your grocery budget will start reflecting close to $40 but even with that, your bill will be SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper.

    I hope this helps! I know it has completely changed our life. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or leave a comment. 😀

  • Thoughts?

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