How You Can Save Money on Real Food Groceries by Meal Planning

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In my opinion, meal planning is the key to saving money at the grocery store. It allows you to look at your pantry before heading out and take inventory of what you have in order to plan your purchases around that.

Two key elements that saves my family money is having a well stocked pantry and buying our meat in bulk from family farmers. I plan on writing a post about each of these topics in the coming week.

For now, I’d like to share with you how I meal plan and where I shop to buy organic/real foods to stay within my grocery budget.

Meal Planning 101

Before I start to plan my meals for the week, I review what food I already have in my deep freeze, pantry, and upright refrigerator/freezer.

Once I’ve taken a visual inventory, I’m able to plan my meals around what meats I already have and re-stock with items that I need.

When I start to plan my meals, I go through some of my cookbooks and any new dishes I’ve pinned on my pinterest, “scrumptious food” board.

Since I blog about food, I like to try something new once a week and keep things simple throughout the rest of the week. This is especially true on two nights of the week I teach during the evening.

In my head, as I’m planning I generally know how much things are going to cost for what I need.

My families weekly budget for groceries is $120 a week.  I try to hit $100 and not go over $120.  Sometimes we spend more and other weeks a lot less.  This is where I’m excited to start an envelope cash system.  Starting next month my family will be budgeting and paying in cash.  This will allow me to save from one week to the next and hopefully be able to save some money for bulk Azure Standard buys.

Below is a pdf file of my meal plan for this week.  Click to Enlarge.

How I Save Money on Real Food


1. In order to buy the foods that I want at the prices that fit within my budget, I shop at 3-4 different stores per week.  

Generally, Trader Joe’s, Costco, Walmart, and my family farmer.  Since the first three grocery stores are all next to each other, I shop at those three places on one day.

From my grocery list above, you’ll notice that the majority of my purchases are produce.  Vegetables and fruits.  Once the farmers market starts on May 5th and my gardens start producing I’ll see a dramatic decrease in my grocery bill (and a lot more produce as well).

2. In order to stay within my budget, I buy my produce according to the dirty dozen list and top 15 clean list.

The Dirty Dozen List  

  • celery
  • peaches
  • strawberries
  • apples
  • domestic blueberries
  • nectarines
  • sweet bell peppers
  • spinach, kale and collard greens
  • cherries
  • potatoes
  • imported grapes
  • lettuce

I purchase most of these vegetables organically at Trader Joe’s.  Once my gardens are producing and the farmers market starts, I grow my own and shop local.

Top 15 Clean List

  • onions
  • avocados
  • sweet corn
  • pineapples
  • mango
  • sweet peas
  • asparagus
  • kiwi fruit
  • cabbage
  • eggplant
  • cantaloupe
  • watermelon
  • grapefruit
  • sweet potatoes
  • sweet onions

I buy most of the items above at Walmart.

3. I buy my produce in season.

Although I can buy organic strawberries in February, I won’t purchase them until they are in season during the Spring. If you buy them during the off season they can cost up to $8 a quart or if you wait until they are in season during the Spring, you can purchase them at $3 a quart.  You’ll always get the best quality and best prices when you buy in season. 

I won’t spend less and buy non-organic produce out of season, this holds especially true if it’s on the dirty dozen list.

One thing that works well for people living in colder climates is that tropical fruits are in season during our winters.  They’re on the clean 15 and make up most of the fruit my family eats during the winter months.  (mango’s, kiwi, pineapple, grapefruit, and oranges)

4. I don’t buy processed foods.

If you look at my grocery list above, I don’t buy many processed foods.  Every now and then a bag of chips or a box of cereal gets put into the cart.  However, that’s few and far between.  By making all of my meals from scratch, I save money.

If you look at my meal plan, just because I’m cooking from scratch doesn’t mean I’m taking a whole lot of time to do it.  Most of my meals take 30-45 minutes to prep and cook.

5. I stick to my list.  As best as I can, I try to stick to my list and not let other items enter in.  If I don’t get something on my list, then I usually allow a substitute 😉  However, sticking to my list ensures that I stick to my budget.

Total Grocery Bill This Week:

Trader Joe’s: $48.19

Walmart: $40.65

Total: $88.84

I still need to purchase raw milk and grassfed beef from my family farmer this week at a total of $18.00.

Grand Total: $106.84

Under budget!

One thing to remember is that many of the items I needed for my meal plan this week I already had. Which brings me to the next few posts I plan on sharing.

Coming Up in the “Real Food” Food Budget Series

Coming up in our series…

The importance of having a well stocked pantry and buying in bulk.  This includes the money my family saves yearly by buying and bartering pastured and grassfed meat in bulk from family farmers.  If it weren’t for the fact that my family still has meat in our deep freeze, our grocery bill would be higher.

It’s definitely worth the investment.

If you’d like your own meal plan printable to use, feel free to download it by clicking here.  I’ve created it for anyone to use free.

Do you meal plan?  Feel free to share any tips on how you save money on real food for your family.

19 Responses to "How You Can Save Money on Real Food Groceries by Meal Planning"
  1. Velva says:

    My hat is off to you. This is awesome. You prove that eating whole foods, and staying on a budget is possible.


  2. Great tips!! Seeing this menu makes me want to come over!

  3. Good post, Diana. I so enjoy your blog; you are a blessing and inspiration! Do you have a recipe for your Taquitos that’s on your meal plan? We currently live overseas in Germany and my parents just brought us a few things, including Maseca flour which I cannot find here. I’ve been dying to make corn tortillas – I think you also said you have a recipe for those to post?

    • Diana Bauman says:

      Courtney, thanks for stopping by! I don’t have a recipe right now on my blog for taquitos but I’ll definitely take some pictures on Friday to have it up next week. If you’re making corn tortillas, I would just follow the instructions on the bag of maseca. I usually add some baking powder to give them a bit more rise. I’ll have to definitely get my tortilla recipes up on the blog soon!

    • Amy says:

      I understand this post is from a few years ago but you can get Maseca flour and other foods on You can order many non-perishable and perishable foods from there. I also live in Germany. I’m really getting into meal planning so online shopping helps me to stick to budget and not get tempted by impulse items.

  4. Bethany says:

    Who’s your family farmer? :)

  5. Steph says:

    Great tips-I just noticed one thing that I am amazed at…I saw you had 2 gallons of milk on your list. Purely out of curiousity, how do you stretch 2 gallons of milk to cover your family’s needs and to make all of those wonderful homemade dairy products?! I am asking because we also are a family of 4, with 3&1 year old girls and I have been trying to get our family on a budget-we purchase our raw milk from a family farmer for an affordable price, but I had to buy shares in order to legally purchase it so we had to decide upfront how much we would need-right now we get 4 gallons/week with the intention of me attempting to make homemade yogurt etc. I know all families are different, I just wonder if we maybe overdo it here! ;)Keep the tips coming-this is a really good series! :)

    • Diana Bauman says:

      Hey Steph,

      My husband drinks his own pasteurized milk, 1-2 gallons per week. He grew up on it and won’t change! This week, I didn’t need to make any yogurt so we’re only ordering 2 gallons. We usually purchase 2 1/2 gallons of raw per week. That’s for me and the boys and our homemade yogurt. The boys drink most of it. So we go through 4 – 4 1/2 gallons of milk per week. I use about 1/2 gallon of raw milk every other week for yogurt.

      It doesn’t seem like you overdo it at all :)

  6. Holli says:

    You are so blessed to have all those stores next to each other to shop in one day. We just got a Trader Joe’s in our area, so I’m going to probably find myself going to two places besides the occasional Farmer’s Market trip (here in Seattle they charge boutique prices unless I want to drive 2 hrs to farmland!).

    But, I’ve finally gotten a community garden plot a block away and hope to supplement our large vegetable consumption:)

    Thanks for doing this series, I’m ready to learn!

  7. Heather says:

    I found you on Keeper of the home. Great article. Then I hopped on over here to you blog! Wonderful to see you are an Urban homesteader too. Gardening, Chickens, and eating clean are the only way to go! :) I do the same thing as you do. I plan our meals and shop accordingly. I try and stay within a budget of $100 a week too. I have a family of 5, and it can be done! I find that once you “know” the stores you are shopping and what organic/clean foods they have it saves a ton of time. I shop at Aldi stores first, believe it or not they started carrying organic. I read labels too. Love your blog, adding it to my favorites. You can find me at my two blogs
    I am also a contributing blogger for Farm Chick Chit Chat

    Cannot wait to continue following you!

    Heather D.

  8. Rusty says:

    Is $120 a reasonable weekly budget for a family of 7 with no chickens or cows? We find it difficult to feed our family on a diet like this for $480 a month. Thoughts?

    • Diana Bauman says:

      Rusty, yes, if I had a family of seven I would definitely be spending more money. I would guess about $180 per week. However, if I were on a strict budget, I would definitely be using more beans and rice in my meals. Just a thought.

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