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Feeding a family of six on a budget |

Meet Supermom.  Dawn is a mother of four, super generous, involved in the community, and even finds time to organize the meal donations for new twin parents.  It was a conversation with her that gave me the idea to do this little series in the first place.  She feels the pressure of shopping on a really tight budget, and told me she really doubted she could fit anything extra (think organic milk) into her list.

I took that as a challenge.  If it is something that she would like to do, I’d like to help her.  I think a reasonable goal is to find room in the budget for non-conventional milk.

Here is what I did:

  • I compiled all the receipts, and split everything up by category.
  • For the next step, I flagged items that ate up budget but didn’t seem to be nutritionally core. You know, the sorts of foods you pay for that you realize you probably could make for a lot cheaper, or maybe don’t really need at all (stuff your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food).
  • The total amount spent for the month, after I added up all the purchases, was $489.

You heard me.  She feeds a family of SIX on <$500 a month.  It may have something to do with her knowing her way around the aisles of the gem pictured above (Aldi). Unlike my first grocery cart makeover, she doesn’t have to shop all at one store.  She shops where the sales are, and stocks up on dry goods when she can.  Very impressive.


My general reaction?  Dawn does a great job.  The bulk of her shopping is where it should be … produce like peppers, squash, apples, strawberries and pears.  Meat, cheese, eggs, yogurt, milk.  Not a ton of processed or convenience food.  Why?  Because she’s smart and realizes these are relatively expensive for what you get.  She has to make her budget get well rounded meals on the table, and to do so, you can’t fill your cart with prepackaged snacks.

So with a pretty darn good cart, how do we make room in the budget for a few more valuable things, perhaps like organic milk?  A few better nutritional “bang for the buck” swaps?  Hmmm….  well there were a few little things.  Most of them weren’t that expensive though … and I needed to basically double my dairy budget!

Well, the frozen pizza number jumped out at me, since they totaled seven that month.  Trust me, it pains me to suggest cutting back on literally one of the easiest foods that exists (and who doesn’t like pizza??)  … but maybe we can cut that in half and swap it for spaghetti and meatballs (goes farther for the buck).  The Market Day order for the kids’ school wasn’t necessarily a good value (it would be better to donate directly to the school the 10% portion that goes back to the school and save the $ to buy a few whole chickens and/or chicken thighs for the crock pot).  Last but not least … juice/Gatorade … I know that may make some unhappy boys in the family … but if we’re scrounging for a few bucks, maybe it could get cut back by half.  Especially the Gatorade (not a necessity, and while we’re at it, our great grandparents might think the glow it emits is sort of … “eek”).

So I made those swaps.

Grocery goodifying |

Meet the new cart.  I kept that dollar total SUPER close to the original total.  I increased the monthly spend by ~$3.00.  But I feel good about those swaps.  Better quality, still easy (crock pot or 30 minute meal friendly swaps of spaghetti and crock pot chicken).

GG After

Look at that.  That takes it well above our 80/20 goal.  But it wasn’t that hard (about 5 items).  A few easy swaps and she has her organic milk!

Do these changes resonate with you?  I’d love to hear some easy swaps you’ve made to lighten the budget or clean things up a bit!

Happy Shopping!

Laura Sig

P.S. Why did I focus on milk?  Recall, for me, non-CAFO meat and dairy are higher priority for me than organic produce, just given the higher environmental impact and higher variability/lack of transparency into what you ultimately get (just my opinion).

P.P.S. If you shop at Aldi, you may want to invest in some reusable bags!! Check out my favorite, shown below.






6 Comments on Grocery Goodifying – Six on a Budget

  1. I shop at Aldi and enjoy the savings is gives me. I stay away from the processed, convenience foods and buy staples and dry goods at Aldi. I make pizza from scratch and save a lot of money. I seldom use pepperoni and opt for ham or ground beef. Aldi’s organic offerings are great too.

    • Exactly – you can shop smart at almost any store, as long as there are fruits and vegetables! Love to see affordable produce there and an increasing amount of “better” ingredient foods.

  2. Thanks for the article. I can’t even manage to feed 3 on that much. I am going to have to rethink some things on our lists.

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