Secrets to a $42 Weekly Grocery Budget for a Frugal Lifestyle

Here is the secret to a frugal $42 weekly grocery budget for a family of 4! (and no, it’s not couponing!) If you are trying to live a frugal lifestyle and stay in a thrifty budget for your food, these tips, and tricks will give you the simple steps you need to feed your family for only $42 per week!

Have you ever left the grocery store in tears? And not because they were sold out of your favorite ice cream that you binge when the kids are asleep.

You know that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach that you get when stand at the cash register, watching the cost go up as each item is scanned? Especially after you spent so long trying to choose the least expensive items?

Have you tried to meal plan and stick to a shopping list, only to blow your food budget in the second week of the month?

Hey y’all, Tiffany here.

I’ve been there. I’ve been in your shoes. And I’ve felt that feeling of dread as the numbers climb higher and higher as each item from my cart is scanned in.

But you know what? I’ve found the answer.

And the answer is not couponing (which will probably surprise those of you who know that Phillip and I used to own a couponing blog).

And the answer is not a perfect meal plan, or even just living on ramen noodles.

A Frugal Grocery Budget

A couple of months ago, a good friend of mine and I sat down to look at her budget. Her husband is a teacher and they have two growing boys. They were on an extremely limited income, especially with summer vacation approaching and the loss of coaching income. I went through this process with her that I’m going to share with y’all, and it has completely revolutionized her life.

She feels confident and optimistic as she writes her grocery shopping list and enters the store. She then leaves the grocery store feeling empowered and successful.

Last week, she texted me and said, “Thanks so much! You have turned my world upside down, but it’s great. I feel so much more on top of things.”

She’s not the only one who has told me that.

I’m not telling you these things to brag or show how amazing I am. I’m telling you to show that this works.

So let’s get started!

First, I want to start with a disclaimer: this is not going to be the most fun meal plan in the world. The meals are going to start out being repetitive, bland, and boring.

But as you get more comfortable with the process, you’ll be able to make adjustments that you want to.

Meal Plan for Your Frugal Grocery Budget

(And no, this isn’t our Monthly Meal Plan.)

We’re going to walk through an example of how to do this. You do not need to choose these exact meals or items. It’s the process that’s important, not the details.

To begin, either print out this sheet or draw a copy of it on a piece of paper:

grocery budget


We are going to start by focusing on dinners. We’ll get to breakfast and lunches in a bit.

Pick a different meal for each day of the week. This is your official new meal plan. You’re going to eat this same meal plan every single week. Remember, I told you this would get boring. You may get sick of homemade macaroni and cheese.

If you need some ideas, check out these 13 Tips on How to Eat Healthy on a Budget.

Now, as you pick your meals, I require you to select several meals where meat is optional. Spaghetti, for example, you can have with or without hamburger or meatballs. This is very significant. We’re choosing the bases – the starches/carbs. We’re not starting with meat or fresh fruits/vegetables.

The reason for this is that meat and fruits/vegetables are expensive. They also vary in price based on season and sales in different stores. I promise that we will include them, but we will select them at a moderate cost in the end.

For each meal that you select, break it down into the items that you need to purchase. Take a few minutes to do a quick shopping online or check on your local store’s website (Kroger, Walmart, etc.) and find the lowest price from the regular price of each item.

If you require healthier meals, here are 10 easy and cheap gluten-free recipes.

Your page should now look something like this:

grocery budget


For our meal plan scenario, we’re going to cook, and the kids have oatmeal for breakfast each morning.

You can get two 42 oz canisters of Great Value Oatmeal at Walmart for around $5. This should be enough for a week’s worth of breakfast for a family of 4. You could also purchase a 25 lb bag of oatmeal for $33 at Sam’s Club. That should feed your family of 4 for two months.

If you require eating something a bit more filling, then alternate between a hard-boiled egg or a slice of toast with peanut butter.


Lunches are going to be a little rock simple, as well: leftovers and PBJ sandwiches. Those are simple, kid-friendly, and inexpensive.

Shopping Lists for Your Frugal Grocery Budget

Now that we know what we’re going to need to buy for our frugal grocery budget, let’s put it into two different shopping lists.

The first list is going to be your weekly shopping list. Pick one day family of four during the week to do your grocery shopping except for your perishables and items that you’ll go through each week.

The second list is going to be what you can purchase in bulk to be less expensive. You will go on the first day of each month, no matter what day of the week it falls on or whether it’s your regular shopping day. (Unless it’s Sunday, then go the day after.)

For our scenario above, here are our lists:


grocery budget


grocery budget

Note that we are purchasing oatmeal at Sam’s Club for only $17. That is a low cost because each bag costs $33, but it lasts two months. To budget this, I’m going to save half of it the first month, then save half the second month. I did the same thing with the rice and the cream cheese.

Frugal Grocery Budget – Money

Now, let’s talk about low-cost plans and how much all of this food waste is going to cost. Let’s say that you want to stay within a food budget of $250 per month.

First, subtract your monthly grocery list from the $250. In our scenario, it costs $40 for our monthly amount. That leaves us $210 to then spend on groceries for our weekly lists.

Next, let’s talk about how much we get each week. Some months you’ll have 4 shopping days, and other months you’ll have 5 trips. To make this as simple as possible, we’re going to say that we have 5 shopping days each month.

$210 split up between two children over 5 weeks gives us a national average of $42 per week to spend on groceries.

Our weekly grocery list now has a $25 value. This means we have an extra $17 per week to spend on meat, fresh fruit, and vegetables. This is where the variety of food costs and sales comes into play!

Keeping Organized

Sometimes this is difficult to keep track of. When you’re first starting, it’s helpful to do this part of your monthly food budget as cash only and use the envelope method.

Get seven different envelopes (or use an accordion-style coupon organizer) and label them for Weeks 1-5, Monthly, and Stock up. At the beginning of each month, take the $250 out of your bank and divide the cash up into the correct envelopes. This way you can easily see how much you have, how much is left over, etc.

The envelope method will keep saving money save time, and also help you to save money over time and stay within your budget. You can’t go over if you don’t have the money to pay for it right then! If you don’t like having real cash out (in case you lose it), then use Monopoly money.

Meat & Fruits/Veggies

Did you know that most grocery stores have a Manager’s Special section? What a good deal! Each department has an area where food that is getting older and is close to expiration gets marked down.

I can’t tell you how many amazing deals I’ve found in those sections. Ground beef for $0.67 per lb.  Boneless, skinless chicken breasts thighs, and breasts for $0.33 per lb. Apples for $0.10 each.

This is how you are going to “dress up” your most healthy meals and snacks during the week. See what’s on sale for fresh produce (are strawberries in season? Maybe watermelon) and what is marked down at your particular store.

One idea is to buy a bag of frozen broccoli and toss it into an instant pot of homemade macaroni and cheese.

Extra Week

What are we going to do with the $42 extra if we don’t have a 5th week of the month? That is going to be our “stock up” money!

Sometimes stores will have excellent sales on the items store brands of groceries that you purchase regularly. For example, one week there may be a good sale on pasta sauce that makes you spend $0.75 per jar. Use the stock-up money to buy 8 jars. This is a great way to save money to build up your food storage for emergencies.

Also, if this is a birthday or holiday month, you could use additional savings from it to save money for eating out or saving money for purchasing something special for your favorite healthy meals.

Variety in Your Grocery Budget

Once you become a pro at meal planning and have a frugal grocery budget (and are sick of the same meals every single week), you can start to add some variety to several meals!

For example, do you want to have silly chili macaroni instead of macaroni and cheese one week? Well, instead of purchasing the cream cheese for $1 and whatever meat/veggies you were going to put into it, use that $1-$2 to purchase a few cans of chili instead.

The more you practice this method of food planning and budgeting, the easier it will be to find deals and add variety! You can even set up a monthly meal plan that interchanges items seamlessly instead of a week at a time.

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And don’t miss our frugal grocery budget webstory!

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  1. Thank you for breaking this down. I love the manager’s special section as well – I always try to look there for good deals. I need to do better about meal planning each week!

  2. This is awesome. We are coming up on a tight month and I’ve already saved this article so I can refer back to it to try and help save a bit on my grocery bill. We are a family of 7 on a single income so budgeting and saving money has become a way of life. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Great tips for meal planning and saving money on groceries! Our grocery bill has gone through the roof and it’s definitely time to get it under control. I try to meal plan but I’m not as consistent as I should be with it.

  4. Wow! You must be some kind of wizard to make this work! I understand that strategic planning can help, but unless you are eating ramen every day, I doubt this would work for my family of four. Thanks for trying to educate me on how to do it, though….

    1. Did you not read the breakdown where we made a sample weekly plan? It definitely did not have any ramen in it at all!

  5. These are great tips, never knew about the Managers specials. I wonder where they keep them in Safeway & Giant…definitely need at Wholefoods.

  6. Thank you for sharing your tips and organizational tools. Shopping in season and looking for managers special items are great tips.

  7. I need to get so much better about checking the specials section for meats – I think that’s what drives up my grocery bill so much 😫 Thank you for these tips!!

  8. Thanks for an excellent post, that really breaks down the dollar amounts. So often I see a post that promises extreme savings, but doesn’t do the math. And when I do the math on their meal plan, they go WAY over. This is a great, workable concept. Much appreciated.

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