Grocery Diaries

How a Kansas Family of 8 Spent Only $189 a Week on Groceries

published Jun 8, 2023
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Credit: Photos: Sarah, Shutterstock; Design: The Kitchn

Name: Sarah 
Location: Kansas City, KS
Age: 45
Number of people in household: 8; myself, my husband, and 6 kids, including 3 teens and 3 elementary-school-age children
Occupation: I’m a writer and my husband is a computer engineer
Where you shopped: Aldi, Hy-Vee, Walmart, and a local produce market
Weekly food budget: $400
Amount spent: $188.89

Credit: Sarah

Where did you shop?

I typically make several trips to the store during the week. This allows me to shop at a variety of stores to get the best deals and also ensures that my items stay fresh. With a large family, one trip would take multiple carts, which is a pain I want to avoid. Shopping midweek also helps with storage space in the pantry. 

This week I shopped at Aldi, which has great prices on produce and staples, but doesn’t always have everything I need. I also made trips to Hy-Vee and Walmart for groceries throughout the week and stopped at a local produce store, which has a table with items for $1. The day I visited, there were bags of baby potatoes, bell peppers, and a basket of tomatoes — all for $1. I picked out three hearts of romaine and also found cucumbers on sale for 79 cents each. 

Credit: Sarah

What’s your grocery strategy?

I try to use ingredients that I have on hand or leftover items that can be used in another recipe. This saves both time and money. I also try to shop for sale items that can be used later. This week I used many items we already had at home, so our grocery spending was lower than weeks where I stock up on staples. 

Credit: Sarah

How do you meal plan? 

Our family is very busy with sports and extracurricular activities after school. My teenagers also have after-school jobs. When I plan meals for the week, I sit down with the family calendar and also check the pantry, freezer, and fridge for items I already have on hand. One of the kids doesn’t eat fish or red meat, and two of the kids are lactose intolerant. I try to plan meals that accommodate those needs.

For busy days, I plan a slow cooker or Instant Pot meal or a meal that can quickly come together. I’ll cook ingredients in a big batch and then use those in another recipe. For example, leftover taco meat can be used to make chili another day. I also try to leave room for flexibility because things come up — especially in a family of eight. I often adjust or change my meal plan to work around unexpected events. 

Credit: Sarah

What did you buy?


  • Ground turkey $6.99
  • Skim milk, $3.22
  • Chicken breast, $7.16
  • Yellow onions, $1.89
  • Fat-free half-and-half, $2.55
  • Organic frozen peas and carrots, $1.59 
  • Canned chicken broth, $0.79
  • Canned diced tomatoes with green chiles, $2.55
  • Canned corn, $0.50
  • Pepper Jack cheese, $1.99
  • Hummus, $2.49
  • Shredded cheddar, $3.79
  • Canned chili beans, $0.78
  • Breakfast bars, $3.49
  • Crackers, $4.19
  • Vanilla pudding, $0.79
  • Mandarin oranges, $3.59
  • Baking potatoes, bag $4.49
  • Alphabet cookies, $3.59
  • Veggie straws, $2.49 
  • Celery, $1.69
  • Corn chips, $3.38
  • Mini sweet peppers, $2.89
  • Bell peppers, $4.98
  • Organic bananas $1.35 
  • Apples, $3.49
  • Pita chips, $2.89
  • Pretzel slims, $1.99
  • Eggs, $1.69
  • Bread, $1.29

Total: $90.46 (includes tax)


  • Hamburger buns, $1.89
  • Kettle chips, $5.97
  • Mayonnaise, $5.99
  • Barbecue sauce, $4.99
  • Ranch dip, $2.38
  • Bagged coleslaw mix, $2.69
  • Chicken thighs, $6.82

Total: $32.87 (includes tax)


  • Organic salad mix, $2.98
  • Strawberries, $9.12
  • Organic eggs, $4.17
  • Spinach and kale mix, $4.17
  • Honey deli ham, $4.92
  • Pepper Jack cheese, $2.00
  • Shredded Monterey Jack cheese, $2.22
  • Yogurt, $4.97
  • Wheat crackers, $4.98
  • Goldfish, $8.88
  • Premade pie crust, $4.24
  • English muffins, $3.48
  • Jar of mushrooms, $1.92

Total: $60.79 (includes tax)

Denny’s Produce

  • Tomato, $0.40
  • Carrots, $1.49
  • Cucumbers, $1.58
  • Romaine lettuce, $0.99

Total: $4.77 (includes tax)

Grand Total: $188.89

Credit: Sarah

Monday: Bacon and Spinach Omelet, English Muffins with Peanut Butter and Honey, Bagels and Cream Cheese, Granola Bars, Fruit, Taco Salad, Peanut Butter and Jelly, and Turkey or Ham Sandwiches, and Stuffed Peppers

Our mornings are busy and the kids and my husband leave the house on a staggered schedule. I try to have a variety of grab-and-go breakfasts ready for them that are quick and easy to eat and clean up: My oldest son and middle daughter each choose a bagel with garden vegetable cream cheese. He adds a banana. My oldest daughter takes a granola bar and an orange on her way out the door. My three younger kids have English muffins with peanut butter and honey. My husband has black coffee and makes himself an omelet with leftover bacon (from bacon cheeseburgers we made over the weekend) spinach, bell pepper, and half eggs and half egg whites. I eat a granola bar on the go because I have several errands to get done today. 

For lunch I pack all of the kids’ sandwiches. Two have peanut butter and jelly and the other four have turkey or ham and provolone with mustard. For sides, I send grapes, pretzels, and a prepackaged crispy rice treat I bought in bulk on clearance after the Easter holiday. The four younger kids take a granola bar and an apple for a snack at school. For my lunch, I make a taco salad with leftovers from the weekend.

Credit: Sarah

Tonight’s dinner was stuffed peppers. I cooked two pounds of ground turkey and added onion and taco seasoning. The taco meat will be used in tonight’s recipe and tomorrow’s dinner recipe as well. I also cook brown rice in bulk. I will use some in this recipe and some will be used in a recipe later this week. I add a can of tomatoes with green chiles to the taco meat and rice to make my stuffed pepper filling. To soften the peppers I baked them a few minutes before adding the filling. Then I topped with cheese and returned to the oven until the cheese melted and the casserole was warmed throughout. 

Credit: Sarah

Tuesday: Bagels and Cream Cheese, Yogurt with Granola, Grapes, School Lunch, Leftover Stuffed Pepper, Snack-Board Lunch, and Turkey Chili

The kids eat bagels with cream cheese for breakfast and have a choice of plain, garden vegetable, or strawberry-flavored. My husband takes yogurt and granola to work. For breakfast I eat yogurt and granola with grapes on the side. 

For lunch, my husband packs his lunch, which included a leftover stuffed pepper. The elementary-school-aged kids have stuffed crust pepperoni pizza at school and the older kids have a la carte options for school lunch. I have mini sweet peppers, hummus, cheese, salami, and crackers for my lunch. 

Credit: Sarah

Tuesdays are a busy evening for our family, due to after-school activities, so I throw some chili together after my lunch. This turkey chili is similar to taco soup. I use the extra seasoned turkey meat from last night’s stuffed peppers and add chicken broth, two cans of tomatoes with green chilis, canned beans, onion, bell pepper, and leftover corn and black beans from the taco salads last weekend to my slow cooker and let it cook on low until dinnertime. We serve this with cheese and corn chips on top. Those who feel it is too spicy add a dollop of sour cream. 

Credit: Sarah

Wednesday: Cereal, Omelet, Yogurt and Fruit, Leftover Chili, Similar Snack-Board Lunch, and Chicken Fried Rice

While the kids eat cereal for breakfast, I pack cheese and crackers, carrots, yogurt, and crispy rice treats for three of the kids. The other three choose to eat hot lunch at school. My husband makes another omelet for breakfast today. I eat yogurt and fruit for breakfast. For lunch my husband takes leftover chili to work. I eat a lunch similar to yesterday with veggies, cheese, and crackers. 

For dinner, I make chicken fried rice using the leftover rice from the stuffed peppers. (Cold, leftover rice is ideal when making chicken fried rice because it keeps the rice from sticking together.) I cook the chicken first with sesame oil and hoisin sauce. Then I prepare the peas, carrots, onion, garlic, and eggs before adding the rice in the skillet (with a little extra oil) and heat it through while mixing with the veggies and eggs. I add soy sauce and a little butter to the rice, and then the cooked chicken. This recipe comes together quickly for a busy evening of activities and makes a large quantity. 

Thursday: Oatmeal, Bagel and Cream Cheese, Cereal, Spinach and Turkey Sausage Omelet, Avocado Toast, Leftover Chili and Fried Rice, “Fend for Yourself” Dinner

My middle daughter, the first one to wake up in the morning, has oatmeal with brown sugar and a little almond milk added. My oldest daughter makes a bagel with peanut butter to eat on her way to school. The four other kids eat cereal and an orange. My husband cooks a half-egg, half-egg white omelet with spinach and precooked turkey sausage. After the kids leave for school I eat whole-grain toast with avocado and everything seasoning sprinkled on top. 

For lunch my husband has a work meeting where lunch is provided. The kids eat hot lunch at school and I eat a salad with turkey, ham, tomato, bell pepper, shredded cheese, and Italian dressing.

This is our busiest evening of the week with the kids’ activities and my husband working late. I usually plan one day of leftovers or a “Fend for Yourself” night each week. Kids can choose to heat a frozen meal, eat cereal or a sandwich, or have leftovers. Those who drive can also choose to buy fast food with their own money. The four younger kids have grilled cheese and canned tomato soup. My older two kids eat Chinese food at a grocery store. There is a sale for $5 per meal, which they pay for themselves. I have leftover fried rice and my husband has a protein shake.

Credit: Sarah

Friday: English Muffins with Peanut Butter, Yogurt with Granola, Granola Bar, Salad with Chicken, Protein Shake, and Ham and Cheese or Veggie Quiche with Strawberries

For breakfast, four of six kids have English muffins with peanut butter. One has a granola bar and one has yogurt with granola. All six kids have school lunch today and my husband eats in the cafeteria at work. He has a lettuce salad with chicken for $10. I make a protein shake with almond milk, frozen berries, and protein powder, and have some cheese and crackers for a snack. 

Credit: Sarah

For dinner I plan to make a breakfast casserole, but don’t have enough time to cook it (some unexpected after-school activities came up after I created my meal plan). To adjust, I settle on making two quiches using premade pie crusts I purchased at the store. To accommodate my daughter who doesn’t eat red meat, I make a veggie quiche using spinach, mushroom, bell pepper, and onion that I have on hand. I add Monterey Jack cheese and a little bit of cheddar and ground mustard. I also make a ham and cheddar quiche with a small amount of green onion and crumbled bacon that I find in the fridge. The younger kids prefer the ham and cheese quiche. I serve fresh strawberries on the side. 

Credit: Sarah

Saturday: Banana Bread, Popcorn Chicken and Apples, Veggie Tray with Ranch Dip, BBQ Chicken Sandwiches, Coleslaw, and Potato Chips

I make banana bread for breakfast with our bananas that are turning brown. A family of eight can eat a full loaf in one morning! For lunch I make popcorn chicken from the freezer and serve it with Goldfish crackers and cut up a few apples for the kids to share. My two teens eat lunch at work. 

Credit: Sarah

We have a busy day finishing up the soccer season and doing yard work. For dinner I make homemade coleslaw and a veggie tray that I prepped in the morning so it could be pulled out after a busy day. I serve the veggie tray with store-bought ranch dip. I make barbecue chicken in my pressure cooker with chicken thighs, chicken broth, and barbecue sauce. Some members of the family like to top their sandwiches with provolone cheese and/or coleslaw. I like serving this meal with chips and a veggie tray because my kids enjoy dipping both in ranch and it encourages them to eat more vegetables. 

Credit: Sarah

Sunday: Cereal, Donuts, Frozen Pizzas, Leftovers BBQ Chicken and Coleslaw, Grilled Chicken Wings, Potato Salad, Green Beans and Veggie Tray with Ranch Dip 

The kids have cereal for breakfast and then eat donuts at church, which are free. For lunch we make frozen pizzas for the kids and my husband and I eat leftover BBQ chicken and coleslaw. The two older teens eat lunch at work. 

The weather is beautiful so my husband grills some chicken wings I picked up on sale a few weeks ago and stored in the freezer for a nice day. I have some potatoes to use, so I make a potato salad, and cook some frozen green beans. I added some more veggies to my veggie tray and set it out for dinner again with store-bought ranch dip. 

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