It’s not just the rising cost of housing that is pricing some families out of the market. It’s also the ballooning expenses for daily essentials at the grocery store and beyond. While some food costs are beginning to ease, staples like meat, eggs and dairy products are expected to tip the scales at historic highs well into 2023.
Because keeping the pantry full takes a big bite out of the average budget, we wondered if it’s still possible to keep your grocery bill to a few dollars a day. The answer might surprise you, but this food budget comes packaged with the caveat that you’ll be sacrificing some convenience to bring low-cost meals to the table.
Can You Spend $33 or Less Per Week on Groceries?
If a $33 weekly grocery bill for a couple ($16.50 per person) to afford three square meals a day sounds a little crazy, you’re not wrong. It’s well below what the USDA recommends in its weekly grocery shopping spending guidelines for a household of two adults. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s budget puts spending at least $119.40 per week for two adults to meet daily nutritional needs.
While you could get by eating ramen and peanut butter sandwiches for a while, scrounging like a college student indefinitely doesn’t have much appeal. Instead, we put together a $65 two-week grocery budget that nets two adults fairly well-rounded meals without skimping too much on the good stuff.
This two-week grocery spending plan can be stretched to accommodate a family of four simply by doubling up on ingredients — and cost. Or expand this plan to a month if you prefer to track your family’s budget and compile a shopping list on a monthly basis.
The Two-Week $65 Grocery Budget Shopping List
Before diving into the grocery budget calculator, it’s worth mentioning that this two-week grocery budget assumes you have basic staples on hand, including salt and pepper, cooking oil and a few common spices and flavorings. It also requires that you have space and a stove to cook with to reduce food waste and save money.
We’ve focused on whole grains instead of other starches and sugars that provide empty calories and can leave you feeling hungrier later. Note that prices were current as of mid-November and compiled from online store directories for Walmart and Target.
What to Buy for Two Weeks of Groceries
Quick oats (16 oz.)
Corn flakes (18 oz.)
Whole wheat bread (20 oz.)
Creamy peanut butter (16 oz.)
Sliced ham (16 oz.)
Peach preserves (18 oz.)
Brown rice (32 oz.)
Blueberries (11.4 oz.)
Baby carrots (2 lbs.)
Light brown sugar (32 oz.)
Fresh spinach (10 oz.)
Bell peppers (3)
Chicken thighs (6 lbs.)
Black beans ( 2, 15 oz. cans)
Spaghetti (16 oz.)
Yellow onions (2)
Pasta sauce with meat (24 oz.)
2% milk (half gallon)
Eggs (2 dozen)
Salsa verde (16 oz.)
Great Northern beans ( 2, 15.5 oz. cans)
Vanilla yogurt (32 oz.)
Mayonnaise (15 oz.)
All-purpose flour (2 lb.)
Frozen corn (12 oz.)
Cheddar cheese (16 oz.)
Tuna (4, 5 oz. cans)
Head of lettuce
You’ll be amazed to find how much more you have to spend on groceries if you buy store brands. Shopping sales or finding coupons helps lower costs further and creates room for a little indulgence in this grocery budget. Many items also have cheaper prices per ounce when you buy larger packages of store brands, so pay a little more upfront and total up the savings later.
Another way to add more fresh fruits and veggies for cheap is to skip the grocery stores and hit the local farmers market. Not only will prices for local produce generally be cheaper, but you’ll get to eat healthy while saving money. For canned goods, one strategy is to hit up discount stores to find dented cans or to compare prices.
Want to stretch your staples even further? Lean into frozen veggies, dried beans and other pantry essentials that with extra effort, can make a little go a long way.
The Two-Week $65 Grocery Budget Menu
Wondering how the slim grocery list above can actually serve two people for two weeks? We’ve done the math and laid out a menu so you don’t have to, giving two options for each meal to get you through all 14 days.
Here’s exactly how to get 84 meals for two out of your two-week $65 grocery budget plan. That’s a cost of 71 cents per meal or $2.13 per day per person. And if you have a little extra money to spend when you’re doing your grocery budgeting, you can work in a few splurges.
Oatmeal with sugar and cinnamon, chopped apples
Blueberry and toasted oatmeal yogurt parfait
Grilled ham and cheese with baby carrots
Cobb salad with diced ham, cheese and hard-boiled egg
Spaghetti with pasta sauce and spinach
Corn fritters with salsa
Banana spinach smoothie
Peanut butter toast with apples
Spinach and cheese omelets
Grilled blueberry and cheese sandwich
Peachy chicken thighs with onions and roasted carrots
Quick fried brown rice
Corn flakes with milk
Homemade peanut butter granola and bananas
Ham salad sandwich
White bean salad
Budget spaghetti carbonara
Peanut butter toast with bananas
Blueberry banana smoothie
Santa Fe salad (black beans or leftover chicken)
Tuna fish sandwich
Brown rice stir fry
Ham and spinach quiche
Yogurt parfait with apples and oats
Blueberry mug coffee cake
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
Ham hash (rice, ham, onion, fried egg)
Salsa verde soup
Cornflake-crusted fried chicken
Fried eggs on toast
Peach and granola parfait
Santa Fe salad with salsa dressing
Budget spaghetti alfredo
Easy crepes with yogurt and fruit
Overnight oats with blueberries
Thai carrot salad with peanut dressing
Stuffed bell peppers
Peanut butter Thai stir-fried rice
While this grocery budget won’t give you the opportunity to eat leftovers, most of these meals are easy to prepare and rely on overlapping ingredients to avoid food waste. While it requires a little effort in the kitchen, the goal is to spend as little time shopping and cooking as you spend eating.
A Two-Week $65 Grocery Budget Slashes Costs, But Mind Your Nutritional Intake
While eating fortified cereals and bread can supplement some of the nutritional value you’re lacking, medical experts agree it’s best to have a variety of protein sources and fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. Using a bare-bones grocery budget plan like the one we’ve outlined should be done to solve a short-term cash flow problem, not long-term food insecurity.
If you or your family consistently face hunger and can’t afford basic supplies and food, don’t hesitate to ask for assistance. You may qualify for food stamps and most areas have food banks or community pantries to assist those in need. Here are some resources to help:
Kaz Weida is a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.