How a Family of 4 Eats for $150 a Week in Waco, Texas

How a Family of 4 Eats for $150 a Week in Waco, Texas

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Ariel Knutson
Jun 14, 2017
(Image credit: GettyImages)

Welcome to Kitchn's Food Budget Diaries series, where we show you how people around the country spend money on what they eat and drink. Each post will follow one person for one week and will chronicle everything that person consumed and how much it costs them.

Name: Melissa
Location: Waco, Texas
Age: 33
Number of people in family: 4 (me, my husband, a 4-year-old, and an 11-month-old)
Occupation: Stay-at-home mom. My husband is a bookstore manager and bartender.
Household income: $38,000
Weekly food budget: $150

(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

Day One: Tuesday

8:45 a.m. I am still in bed and start drinking pour-over coffee — always with cream, no sugar — that my husband made and brought to me. This is not a normal day. Most days I would have been up with my two daughters for a couple hours already, but the baby kept all of us up last night, so everyone slept in.

9:25 a.m I start making breakfast for my girls. Elizabeth, my 4-year-old, is having oatmeal. Nora, my baby, is having what we call baby pudding, which is egg yolk and coconut cream mixed together. My husband usually just has coffee for breakfast.

9:45 a.m. I sit down at the table with the girls and their breakfast and eat my oatmeal with peanut butter and strawberries.

10:30 a.m. While holding the baby and cleaning up the kitchen, I make a little secondhand coffee, which is when I reuse old coffee grounds, but don't get around to drinking it. Oops.

(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

11:00 a.m. Elizabeth invites me to a tea party that she set up while I was putting the baby down for a nap. She offers me (pretend) orange tea.

11:45 a.m. I drink a can of sparkling water on my way to pick up groceries and drop off some leftover stir-fry to my husband at work for his lunch.

12:15 p.m. I pick up this week's grocery order from my grocery store, H-E-B. I don't always take advantage of grocery pick-up, but sometimes it's nice to avoid a trip to the store with both kids. I usually spend less when I order groceries, because there are no impulse buys, but I also usually forget a few things too.

H-E-B

2 pounds asparagus: $3.04
Olive oil: $9.23
Bacon: $4.49
Diced tomatoes: $.61
2 limes: $.38
2 avocados: $1.04
Tortillas: $3.79
20-ounce salmon fillet: $18.28
34 ounces dried pinto beans: $1.68
Minced garlic: $2.04
12-pack of lime sparkling water: $3.07
12-pack of plain sparkling water: $3.07
Pickled jalapeños: $1.26
Bananas: $.86
1 loaf of sprouted Ezekiel bread: $4.92
12 ounces maple syrup: $7.19
Plums: $3.27
Garlic: $.52
2-pound tub of plain yogurt: $4.09
Oven-roasted turkey breast: $5.65
Pork butt: $13.45
2 pounds red potatoes: $2.08
3 lemons: $1.02

Total Cost: $95.03

1:30 p.m. I have a taste of cracker, apple, and raisins as I fix lunch for the girls. Elizabeth is having tuna salad with raisins and apples and rice crackers. The baby has tuna and some apple. We had a bit of car trouble while dropping off my husband's lunch, so everyone is past hungry and needs to eat and take a nap.

2:30 p.m. Lunch for me, finally! Turkey, ham, and Swiss sandwich, chips with avocado, and a fancy ginger ale that I found in the back of the fridge. I eat lunch while looking at Instagram and some blogs since both girls are napping and everything is quiet for a bit.

4:15 p.m. While I help Elizabeth fix herself a snack of peanuts and raisins I also have a handful of peanuts.

4:45 p.m. I reheat the cup of coffee I made at 10:30 this morning and drink it while I do a little kitchen cleanup and get everyone ready to go for a walk.

6:30 p.m. We all have salmon, potatoes, and asparagus for dinner as a family. I eat part of my dinner while feeding the baby off my plate.

Get the recipe: Sheet Pan Mustard Maple Salmon with Potatoes and Asparagus

8:00 p.m. I finish eating dinner while I clean up the kitchen.

Day Two: Wednesday

8:30 a.m. I eat a slice of cheese and start drinking secondhand coffee. I make a turkey, ham, cheese, and avocado sandwich for my husband to take to work for lunch.

9:45 a.m. Today's breakfast is oatmeal with peanut butter and strawberries (just like yesterday) and the rest of my cup of coffee. Elizabeth ate oatmeal, and the baby had some baby pudding. I scroll through my phone while I'm eating.

11:45 a.m. My mom is visiting for a few days to help with the girls; she only lives a few hours away. For lunch I fix tuna salad, apple and plum slices, and tortilla chips for myself, my 4-year-old, and my mom. I offer the baby tastes of tuna and apple, but she mostly just eats the baby pudding.

1:30 p.m. I drink part of a sparkling lime water before I take a nap. The girls also take a nap and my mom is on baby duty.

3:45 p.m. After I get the baby down for another nap I eat a cheese stick and an apple, while I sit with my mom and Elizabeth as they read a book together. Elizabeth has already had some raisins and a cheese stick for her snack.

4:15 p.m. I drink some French press decaf coffee that I made with my mom and eat some microwaved leftover oatmeal with peanut butter from this morning. Elizabeth paints while I eat.

5:30 p.m. I drink another can of lime sparkling water while I run to the store for cold medicine for the baby and arrowroot powder for a baby snack recipe my mom is going to try.

H-E-B

Arrowroot powder: $2.75
Peanut M&Ms: $1.37

Total Cost: $4.12

6:15 p.m. For dinner I made beef souvlaki wraps (beef, tomatoes, lettuce, and yogurt sauce on a sprouted tortilla) and leftover green beans and roasted potatoes for the girls and my mom. My husband is working tonight.

The baby tastes the beef and potatoes, but she seems to be on a solid food strike and isn't interested. After dinner I pack the leftovers up for my husband to take for his work lunch tomorrow.

Get the recipe: Greek Souvlaki Beef Skewers from The Lemon Bowl

7:00 p.m. I drink a glass of milk while I run the baby's bath and enjoy a quiet minute while the girls are in the backyard with my mom.

8:00 p.m. I eat the last of some chia seed pudding that Elizabeth made with my mom (who brought the ingredients). I finish tidying the kitchen and folding a load of cloth diapers.

9:30 p.m. I drink some more milk and eat some peanut M&Ms while I put away some laundry and watch Netflix.

Day Three: Thursday

8:15 a.m. I drink a cup of pour-over coffee my husband made for me while I feed the baby her breakfast (soft-boiled egg). My mom and Elizabeth follow suit and also eat soft-boiled eggs with toast.

8:45 a.m. Now it's my turn for breakfast! I eat toast with the soft-boiled egg that the baby declined and another batch of chia seed pudding. Elizabeth sits with me and finishes her breakfast and the baby plays with my mom. I also drink some more of my coffee, which my mom has warmed up for me.

10:30 a.m. I drink the last of my coffee after I microwaved it while I putter around the house doing chores. I enjoy the nice quiet house while the baby naps and my mom takes Elizabeth to dance class. Notice the theme of my mom being extremely helpful in all areas of our daily life while she visits.

(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

11:00 a.m. I start drinking a cup of leftover decaf coffee from yesterday that I microwaved. Someone fixed a cup and then never drank it, so I stuck it in the fridge yesterday. Now I'm drinking it and folding some laundry in the living room and watching Netflix.

12:00 p.m. Today's lunch is a salad made with all the fridge bits I could find: lettuce, bacon, chopped turkey lunch meat, cubed Swiss cheese, carrots, tomatoes, and the crumbs from the plantain chip container with oil and vinegar for the dressing. My mom, Elizabeth, and I each assemble our own salads.

We also each have a small smoothie (banana, milk kefir, egg yolks, and vanilla). I eat with Elizabeth and my mom while feeding the baby some of my smoothie. After lunch I eat the last bites of Elizabeth's lunch, the lettuce from her second helping of salad, as I clean up the kitchen.

4:30 p.m. I eat the last of the peanut M&Ms from yesterday as I finish up dinner prep.

5:00 p.m. On his way home from work my husband stops to get coffee beans and half-and-half. The bag of coffee is over two pounds and will last us more than two weeks. My husband bartends on the side a couple nights a week and I am often up at night with the baby. We go through a lot of coffee.

H-E-B

Half and half: $2.98
2 pounds medium roast coffee: $18.98

Total Cost: $21.96

7:00 p.m. I eat dinner with my husband, mom, and Elizabeth after I put the baby to bed. I made charro beans and cheese quesadillas, which we eat with sour cream and avocado.

Get the recipe: Pinto Beans, Three Ways from Homesick Texan

8:00 p.m. I grab another can of sparkling water. It's time for "hair-washing night" with Elizabeth. She has long, very curly hair, so hair-washing is an event.

9:30 p.m. I drink another can of sparkling water while I put together my husband's lunch of leftover charro beans for his work lunch tomorrow.

Day Four: Friday

8:00 a.m. I eat a piece of buttered toast, cup of milk kefir, and some slices of plum and blood orange at breakfast with the girls and my mom.

8:45 a.m. I take my cup of pour-over coffee that I made into the bathroom with me to drink while I shower and get ready for the day. The girls are playing with my mom in the backyard one more time before she heads home.

11:30 a.m. At the girls' lunch time I eat the last few slices of blood orange while I feed the baby applesauce. Elizabeth eats tortilla and peanut butter roll-ups.

1:00 p.m. I eat a sprouted tortilla, peanut butter, and coconut roll-up while I keep the baby entertained on the kitchen floor with sippy-cup pieces.

2:30 p.m. I scarf down a bowl of leftover charro beans with Elizabeth while she has her post-nap snack of a cheese stick. We are about to leave for my eye doctor's appointment, so I'm in a rush.

3:00 p.m. While rushing to the eye doctor, where my husband will meet us so he can walk around with the girls while I get my eyes checked, I drink a can of sparkling water in the car.

4:30 p.m. We take a family trip to the ice cream shop, also known as having dessert before dinner. We needed to get some gift certificates for birthday gifts and couldn't leave without buying ourselves ice cream as well. I have salty vanilla bean in a cone, Elizabeth gets a scoop of strawberry basil, and my husband gets brown butter pecan in a cone. I let the baby lick my cone for her first ever taste of ice cream. My husband knows the shop owner, and they give us a discount.

(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

Heritage Creamery

3 ice cream cones: $10

Total Cost: $10

7:30 p.m. Family dinner plans went awry. I planned to make pineapple pulled pork for tacos, but didn't put the meat in the crockpot soon enough and it wasn't done in time. It's just as well since my husband was working on installing a new screen door over dinnertime anyway, so I fed Elizabeth bacon and eggs and then scrounged to feed myself.

8:00 p.m. I eat another bowl of charro beans with sour cream while Elizabeth and I FaceTime with my parents.

9:00 p.m. I eat a peanut butter, cream cheese, and cinnamon sandwich and then have milk and homemade cookies with my husband (he made them). We watch a little TV before heading to bed.

Day Five: Saturday

8:00 a.m. I drink a cup of pour-over coffee that my husband made for me while hanging out with the family in the living room. My husband works six days a week, so today is our one day when he will be home all day. He got up with the girls and fed them scrambled eggs for breakfast while I tried to get a bit more sleep. I end up skipping breakfast.

8:30 a.m. I make another small cup of secondhand pour-over coffee and drink it while I push the girls on their swing set.

10:30 a.m. I eat the rest of a banana the baby didn't finish at breakfast while she naps. Elizabeth helps her dad work outside and I enjoy a minute of quiet.

12:30 p.m. Some of our best friend's kids are having a birthday party today. Over the course of the party I have tortilla soup, chips and queso, fruit salad, sparkling water, a beer, and a slice of birthday cake, plus a cupcake. My husband and I take turns watching the baby while the other one is eating. The party hostess is an excellent cook so we knew we would be fed well and have a good time. It's free for us.

(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

4:15 p.m. Elizabeth gets a cheese stick — she was so busy playing that she barely ate at the birthday party — and also gets one for me, which I eat while I'm hanging cloth diapers on the clothesline to dry.

5:15 p.m. I eat a fun-size Snickers that I find in the cabinet. I also start prepping the meat I cooked yesterday for tonight's dinner.

6:15 p.m. We eat pineapple pulled pork tacos and broccoli slaw for dinner as a family. The baby eats a few bites of pork. It's a nice night, so we eat outside on the patio.

Get the recipe: Slow-Cooker Pineapple Pulled Pork from Mommypotamus

9:00 p.m. I eat ice cream and cookies with my husband while we watch part of a movie before giving up and going to bed. He made an ice cream run while I did bedtime.

H-U-B

Vanilla ice cream: $8.28

Total Cost: $8.28

Day Six: Sunday

9:45 a.m. I eat a cookie leftover from last night and then start drinking the cup of pour-over coffee my husband made for me before he left for church with Elizabeth. He made scrambled eggs for the girls' breakfast earlier this morning. The baby has a cold so she and I are staying home today.

I take the coffee outside and the baby swings while I drink coffee and mentally plan the girls' birthday party. I'm distracted by a neighbor's dog that found its way into our yard through a hole in our fence. He ignores my attempts to herd him out. When he wanders out on his own I block the hole in our fence with bricks.

11:00 a.m. I eat peanut butter toast while I run a bath for the baby and watch her play in her room. She is super happy playing, so I sit in the hall and drink sparkling water and watch her play until she's comes to find me and then I put her in the tub.

11:30 a.m. I make some secondhand coffee and take the baby outside to the swings.

12:45 p.m. I eat lunch with my husband and Elizabeth. We have more pulled pork tacos and slaw from last night, while Elizabeth tells me about church.

3:30 p.m. I make some popcorn. I also grab a Diet Coke from the fridge. I know Diet Coke is terrible for you; I am far from my two-cans-a-day in college, but I never completely kicked the habit.

6:15 p.m. Elizabeth and I have peanut butter toast and our version of a milkshake (milk, coconut cream, egg yolk, and maple syrup) for dinner. The baby tastes the milkshake. My husband works on Sunday nights so we just eat whatever can be thrown together instead of me cooking. Tonight dinner is provided for him at work. I'm feeling like I didn't buy quite enough groceries to get through a full week, hence the high frequency of peanut butter.

(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

9:00 p.m. The girls are in bed and my husband is home from work and watching basketball. I eat the last of my ice cream from last night and do a little online shopping. I order a coat on sale and shoes at full price. I also wish I had a burger.

Day Seven: Monday

7:30 a.m. I drink pour over-coffee that my husband made for me while I get together his lunch of leftover pulled pork and slaw to take to work. Last night was the first in a while that the baby wasn't up and down all night, so I feel less desperate for the coffee but still glad to have it.

8:00 a.m. I have breakfast with the girls. I'm still drinking my coffee and I have toast with cream cheese, applesauce, maple syrup, and cinnamon. The baby rejects most of the food she's offered and Elizabeth eats scrambled eggs and peanut butter toast.

10:00 a.m. I drink a cup of secondhand pour-over coffee while I sit on the couch with Elizabeth and we do her preschool work while the baby takes a nap.

12:00 p.m. For lunch I eat leftover pulled pork (we will never eat all of this; I need to freeze some), the last of the slaw, sliced plums, and some salad leftover from last week with the last of the rice crackers sprinkled in for something salty and crunchy. Elizabeth eats pulled pork, slaw, and sliced plums too and the baby tastes pulled pork and plum pieces.

3:00 p.m. I eat a handful of peanuts and chocolate chips and drink a glass of milk while I peel and chop a butternut squash to roast for dinner. The baby is napping and Elizabeth is playing in her room.

5:15 p.m. The girls and I head to the grocery store. We had to go get something for tonight's dinner because we were out of everything besides the bottomless pot of pulled pork. Once we're at the grocery store I decide to go ahead and shop for tonight, plus the next week; everything not for tonight's dinner is paid for using the money budgeted for next week's groceries.

On the way home I start drinking a Diet Coke I also bought.

H-E-B

Ground beef: $10.45
Hamburger buns: $2.96
Diet coke: $1.77

Total Cost: $15.18

6:30 p.m. Everything got busy when we got home from the grocery store. My husband makes burgers on the grill with onions before he rushes off to work. Elizabeth ate a burger patty, onions, and butternut squash and I fed the baby some butternut squash at dinnertime, while my husband wolfed his burger and squash down and left for work.

7:45 p.m. I'm finally sitting down to eat dinner. It's a burger with lettuce, mustard, cheddar, and caramelized onions on an onion bun; plus roasted butternut squash and a bit of BBQ sauce to dip things in; a can of orange sparkling water; and the last swig of Diet Coke. I am so hungry.

I let Elizabeth watch a show so I can sit quietly and eat before reading her a bedtime story and tucking her in.

(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

*This is close to $5 over our weekly budget, but the huge bag of coffee should last us for two weeks.

(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

1. How did you set your food budget?

I set our kitchen budget by trial and error. For about a month I grocery shopped reasonably, meaning I bought what we needed and a few extras, and tracked what our weekly totals were. I do this occasionally, when it seems like our grocery budget isn't stretching as far as it usually does, to see if we need to adjust the budget or if we just need to buy fewer treats.

2. What are the kitchen ingredients you can't live without?

I try to always keep eggs on hand. They work for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and are cheap and easy protein. I also usually have yogurt, cheddar cheese, and sprouted bread in the fridge; if nothing else, the baby can have yogurt and my 4-year-old loves grilled cheese sandwiches. If I draw a blank when I'm meal planning, I'll just make sure I have ground beef for that night because it can be turned into so many things — usually burgers, stir-fry, or taco salad in our house.

3. What's the budget recipe you always rely on?

My go-to budget meal is beans. Dried beans are so cheap. The charros beans I made this week are my favorite, but you can always cook any kind of dried beans you want with any combination of onion, garlic, celery, bell peppers, and carrots; season it however you like; and they're going to turn out fine and fill everyone up. Throw sour cream or grated cheese on top if you need something extra and dinner is done.

At Kitchn we believe setting a food budget for you and your family is an essential part in getting your financial life in order. Don't know where to start? We have a guide for that. Want to share your food budget diary with Kitchn? See how here.

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