How a Family of 5 Eats for $350 a Week in Kansas City

How a Family of 5 Eats for $350 a Week in Kansas City

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Ariel Knutson
Jan 24, 2018
(Image credit: The Kitchn)

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: Christi
Location: Lees Summit, MO (a suburb of Kansas City)
Age: 37
Number of people in family: Five. My husband and I have three daughters, ages 13, 11, and 8.
Occupation: I am a stay-at-home-mom and homeschool the girls full time. My husband, Gabe, works as a safety inspector for natural gas and oil pipelines.
Household income: $98,000
Weekly food budget: $350 per week ($300 per week for groceries plus saving $50 per week for locally raised meat).

A note on how we eat: Three of us have dietary restrictions. My eldest is on the autism spectrum and we find that she does best when sticking with a gluten- and dairy-free diet. I am gluten intolerant and suffer from migraines if I slip up at all. Our youngest, affectionately nicknamed "the Bug," deals with an extensive list of food and environmental allergies. She must avoid all corn, dairy, wheat, most grains, eggs, all nuts, soy, coconut, stone fruits, and nutmeg.

(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

Day 1: Saturday

6:00 a.m. I get up early for my weekly run with my running partner. I hate running with food in my stomach, so I just eat a small handful of dried apricots. My daughters are awake already and the middle one makes breakfast for her sisters: mini muffins for the Bug and toasted gluten-free waffles for herself and the eldest. We are out of fresh fruit, so they eat frozen organic blueberries and dried apricots.

7:30 a.m. My husband is up and starts making breakfast: potatoes, sausage, and eggs. He brews himself a pot of French press coffee.

8:00 a.m. I get home and snag a mini muffin. My husband adds two fried eggs to my plate and uses my Aeropress to fill my coffee mug. I use a dairy-free coffee creamer in my coffee, but have weaned myself off sugar! The eldest and middle each have a serving of potatoes, but the Bug just eats a few bites of the cut-up sausage. My husband finally has his egg made and sits to have breakfast with me.

9:45 a.m. We try to slow it down on Saturday morning so I enjoy my breakfast, finish my coffee, and get myself ready to go grocery shopping. I head to my local organic grocery store where I can get everything I need in one place. There are closer chain stores, but we insist on the girls eating all organic produce.

(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

My goal for the week is for the girls to eat the rainbow over the course of the week. Terra also carries a lot of the specialty products that the Bug requires. I'm disappointed today because the Brussels sprouts aren't in great shape and the shipment of sugar snap peas was delayed. I'll have to work in a stop later in the week to pick them up with the next truck delivery. We end up with golden beets in place of the red beets because they are in better shape. Terra gives me 5% of my purchase price back as store credit I can use on future visits. I like to save all of my credit and use it at the end of the month — sometimes I can earn almost fifty dollars off my groceries!

Terra

Hemptation hemp bread, $4.69
Buffalo chips, $3.39
Hot dogs, $8.89
Beetology juice, $3.49
Cornbread, $5.39
Focaccia, $6.19
Buckwheat flour, $4.59
Brown sugar, $3.99
Frosty flakes cereal, $4.31
Hot cereal, $7.19
Mini marshmallows, $3.83
Almond creamer, $3.39
Paprika, $1.87
Baked vegetable chips, $1.99
Cashew yogurt, $3.98
Pretzels, $5.99
Snack bars, $3.59
Applesauce, $3.91
Lentils, $2.79
Eggs, $3.29
Breakfast bars, $2.60
Bulk pinto beans, $3.75
Cucumbers, $3.12
Apples, $6.19
Orange peppers, $4.89
Red chard, $2.89
Bananas, $2.39
Red onions, $1.69
Yellow onions, $2.38
Purple potatoes, $4.08
White onions, $.36
Mangoes, $1.79
Anjou pears, $5.11
Clementines, $6.49
Golden beets, $3.97
Leeks, $4.27

Total including tax: $161.74

11:00 a.m. Back home I unload groceries and then press myself another cup of coffee. My husband grabs a banana from the bunch I just brought home. The girls want a snack too, but I know lunch isn't too far away. I spy two bags of organic fruit snacks that they brought home from church a week ago. I check the ingredients and they pass the Bug test. I let the three girls split the two packages. I know it isn't much, but they're happy! We are hosting an open house birthday party for the eldest tonight so I get my husband started squeezing a bag of lemons for me.

I need to add a note here: We used cash from the sale of my unused treadmill to buy birthday presents and goodies for the party so that we could have people over and go beyond the grocery budget. I went shopping on Friday to stock up on the party supplies. I made this delicious olive oil and lemon cake with gluten-free Namaste flour that I stock from Costco. I make two frostings: a dairy-free lemon buttercream to frost the cupcakes and individual cake for the birthday girl (I use the special powdered sugar that the Bug can eat and frost three of her muffins from the morning so that she also can have a birthday treat that evening) and a lemon cream cheese icing for the cake for the guests. Finally I use the last of the freshly squeezed lemon juice to make lavender lemonade using Kitchn's recipe.

Get the recipe: Lavender Lemonade from Kitchn

HyVee

Eggs, $2.29
Bollicine, $7.99
Candles, $1.98
Wilton Dots, $2.49
Powdered sugar, $1.19
Lemons, $9.98

Total including tax: $27.74

Costco

Strawberries, $7.98
Mini peppers, $5.49
LaCroix, $8.99
Tort, $4.09
Dinner rolls, $4.99
Red grapes, $9.29
Raspberries, $9.58
Spinach dip, $7.99
Riesling, $5.69
Boompop, $5.69
Rotisserie chicken, $4.99
Total, including tax: $79.29

12:00 p.m. My stomach is growling and it is definitely time for lunch. The Bug finishes a bag of baby carrots that were left from last week and grabs a mandarin orange from the fruit bowl. The middle eats the last two sweet mini peppers in last week's bag and eats a pear. The birthday girl eats her special cashew milk yogurt we bought her that morning. My husband cuts up breast meat from a Costco rotisserie chicken we have leftover in the fridge and I place the bowl on the table. Each girl gets a glass of homemade kombucha.

My husband is the great leftover destroyer and he raids the fridge. He finds a portion of cauliflower rice and heats it up with the last serving of barbacoa beef we have from our New Year's Eve party. He adds a sprinkle of queso fresco on top then finds two separate containers of homemade guacamole and eats both with tortilla chips. I drink the bottle of beet juice that I picked up that morning and eat chicken from the girls' bowl. I also steal a few chips from my husband's plate, but not the guac (I hate avocados). The Bug is still hungry and I find two sausage links from our hog in the fridge; I heat them up and she gobbles them down.

I start prepping my ham for the party tonight. This ham has been saved from the fall when we bought our pig for a special occasion and it deserves a special-occasion recipe! I use this one from Epicurious.

Get the recipe: Holiday Ham with Riesling and Mustard from Epicurious

2:45 p.m. I spent the last two hours cleaning up and getting things ready. I am starving after just picking around for lunch. I eat an organic hummus cup from Costco with Sriracha sauce and tortilla chips. The girls also want a snack and I let the older two have a Glutino bar while the Bug gets her Enjoy Life bar. I don't buy these every week, but this week they were 50% off on clearance.

3:30 p.m. I watch the first quarter of the Kansas Chiefs playoff game with my husband. I snack on Skinny Pop White Cheddar popcorn while he has a beer.

4:30 p.m. We set up for the party. My husband starts to carve the ham into slices. I set the table buffet-style. We serve the ham with mustard, rolls, and this red wine and fig cranberry sauce I found in my freezer from Thanksgiving. I toss two bags of premade salad from Costco and wash grapes and mini peppers. I set out a bag of tortilla chips with spinach-artichoke dip and salsa. Then I set out a bag of kettle corn. I make a drink station with a variety of LaCroix flavors and the lavender lemonade we made earlier. The cakes and cupcakes get displayed in the center.

(Image credit: Christie H.)

I get caught up with the guests and the birthday girl and don't actually eat anything during the party except for a slice of cake. The rest of the family munches throughout the evening. The Bug can only eat the grapes and ham, but somehow she fills herself up!

9:30 p.m. The final guest leaves for the night and I make myself a plate as we clean up. Unfortunately only about half of the expected guests were able to make it and we have a lot of leftovers. I throw away at least a full bag of the salad because it has already started wilting. Only half of the ham was sliced, so we wrap it well and stick it in the deep freezer. I sent cake home with everyone, but still have so much left! I eat a cupcake while we watch a show to wind down.

Day 2: Sunday

7:30 a.m. We all sleep late today! The middle is up first and starts frying some sausage for herself and her sisters. She makes six links of chicken and maple sausage we like from Costco plus four links of the Jones's all-natural pork sausage for the Bug. We always have bacon on Sunday but since we all slept in, my husband just has enough time to fry up one half a 16-ounce package from our hog so we each just get one thick slice. I make his French press coffee and Aeropress mine and stick it in my travel mug. We follow the time-honored tradition of eating leftover birthday cake the next day for breakfast and we all have a slice. The Bug can't eat the cake so she gets a scoop of ice cream for breakfast! The girls finish off the container of leftover raspberries; I had used them to decorate the cake. My husband fries himself an egg to eat with his bacon to help cut all the sugar. We rush to make it to church on time.

12:00 p.m. We are home and all of us are hungry. It's a casual affair today and lunch comes in stages. I make a simple guac; the girls eat this with chips while I prep some of the leftover ham from last night. I trim the fat from the ham and cut into into large chunks. I melt bacon fat from this morning into my cast iron skillet and fry the ham until it is crispy on the edges then fill a ramekin for each girl. I eat directly out of the skillet.

I realize they haven't eaten veggies in a while and pull a one-pound bag of frozen broccoli from the freezer. I add garlic salt and a pat of butter to the hot skillet and heat it until it's all hot. The girls fill their ramekins with broccoli after they have finished their ham. They each get another piece of fruit (bananas and oranges.) They finish up the lavender lemonade from the party.

My husband and I finish the ham that I made, eat the rest of the broccoli, and heat up a ramekin of the spinach-artichoke dip to eat with chips. I drink a LaCroix.

1:00 p.m. After lunch I get some chicken stock going in the crock with two frozen chicken carcasses, a top from a leek, thyme, and bay leaves and a splash of white wine vinegar. I'll let this go on low until tomorrow. I also dig through my deep freezer for some stew meat; I can't find any and instead grab two one-pound packages of ground beef and one chicken.

3:00 p.m. The girls want a snack. The Bug eats three Medjool dates from the pantry. The two older girls split a Glutino bar between themselves. I take the gluten-free focaccia bread out of the freezer so it can thaw in time for dinner tonight.

4:00 p.m. After vegging out for most of the afternoon my husband and I start to make the stew. My husband pours himself a glass of the Riesling I used yesterday for the ham and preps shoestring fries. We'll bake them until they are crispy for the girls. We also make a side of beets.

5:30 p.m. I left for a meeting at church while everything was cooking. My husband serves the girls dinner. The Bug eats a ramekin of the stew with some of her Beanitos bean chips and half of a cucumber. The older two each get two thin slices of the focaccia with their stew. They eat all of the beets. My husband eats with the girls and has two bowls of the stew with bread. When I get home a little after six the beets are gone. I eat two bowls of the stew with a chunk of the bread; there's only enough stew and bread left over for one person's lunch tomorrow.

7:30 p.m. We play a family board game tonight. My husband finishes the last of the Riesling and I eat a thin slice of cake. My husband has to leave for an early flight out tomorrow so we settle down early tonight.

Day 3: Monday

5:00 a.m. My husband leaves for his flight. He takes a few dried apricots and gets going. He'll have to pick up coffee at the airport. His work covers his food costs while he is on the road, so I won't record what he eats while he is out of town.

(Image credit: Christie H.)

6:30 a.m. The older two girls are up and the middle starts making breakfast. She basically makes this recipe for pumpkin steel-cut oats but switches out the oats for buckwheat groats. I press myself a cup of coffee and clean the kitchen. I also take some time to strain my stock and am able to get four quart jars full. The girls each get a swirl of pure maple syrup and sit down to eat. They split the remaining grapes from the party.

Get the recipe: Baked Pumpkin Steel Cut Oatmeal from Kitchn

7:30 a.m. The Bug is finally awake. I reheat her cereal with an extra splash of hemp milk. She finishes the pan and eats the last of the grapes, but she's still hungry so I make her a chocolate milk. I use Dr Axe's bone broth chocolate protein powder and half hemp milk and half water. I try to conserve the hemp milk when I can!

8:00 a.m. Before we start our schoolwork for the day I press myself a second cup of coffee. I can always get two cups of coffee out of one Aeropress filter. It doesn't save a whole lot of money, but every little bit counts! I cut myself a thin slice of cake and we get to work.

(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

10:30 a.m. It's time for a brain break and the girls pick a snack. They all have a glass of homemade kombucha. The middle finishes a bag of beef jerky she received in her Christmas stocking. The other two each get three slices of Jones all-natural Canadian bacon that we buy from Costco. I make myself two over-easy eggs and toast a slice of Udi's gluten-free bread. I peel a mandarin orange and we get back to work.

11:45 a.m. We are done with school for the morning and it's time to make lunch. I toss some cauliflower florets for lunch. and chickpeas with some spices and throw them into the oven. I head out for a run since I wasn't able to in the morning. While I'm gone the Bug also finds and eats half of a cucumber and the middle eats three mini peppers. When I get back there is no food left.

1:30 p.m. I'm ready to eat now. I promised the girls a final slice of cake if they ate well for lunch, so the eldest and middle get a slice of cake while the Bug has the last of her ice cream. I reheat the stew from last night and the final piece of focaccia. I eat while the girls start on their math assignments.

2:30 p.m. We work out at a local gym all together. The gym is small but they offer a class for homeschooling families. The eldest and the Bug have a class and the middle works out with me and older teens/moms. After class the middle has a babysitting job. She eats a bag of kettle corn she packed for herself while we drive to the church where she watches some kids in the nursery.

4:00 p.m. Home again. The Bug eats a handful of dried apple chips while the eldest eats a small handful of dried apricots. I eat half a slice of the last piece of cake remaining. Might as well eat it all so that it's not in the house any longer! The girls get some screen time while I clean up the kitchen that is somehow completely dirty again! Then I get sloppy Joes going on the stove.

5:30 p.m. The middle is dropped off at home and we all sit down to eat together. We all get a sweet potato with butter and a ramekin of the sloppy Joes. There are no leftovers. I save the skins from the sweet potatoes for our dogs. I make their dog food, and scraps like this are a favorite. We eat fast and get out the door for Bible study. I drink a half a LaCroix on the way.

9:00 p.m. Home and the girls are settled in bed. I finish the LaCroix I started earlier and polish off the last bits of cake. Thankfully it's gone now so I won't be constantly thinking about cake!

Day 4: Tuesday

6:45 a.m. I get home from my run and the middle gets up to greet me. She thaws some chickpea oatmeal muffins from the freezer for everyone but the Bug. Each girl gets two muffins with the eldest getting a sliced apple and the middle eating a mandarin orange. The Bug gets four of her special buckwheat crackers spread with sunflower seed butter and blueberry jam. She also eats an apple. The older two girls make themselves chocolate milk with coconut milk (we buy in bulk from Costco) and SunWarrior blend chocolate protein powder. I heat up my water for coffee and eat three mini chickpea muffins. While I'm waiting for my coffee the Bug requests a smoothie. I still use a Magic Bullet to make individual smoothies. She gets hemp milk, frozen berries (from Costco), and Dr Axe's Vanilla Bone Broth protein powder. I finally press my coffee and make myself two over-easy eggs.

We have to get on the move today. We have a science field trip in downtown Kansas City. When you homeschool it can sometimes be challenging to have your family fully dressed and out the door by nine o'clock! I am able to press another to-go cup of coffee on my way out though.

11:45 a.m. The field trip is over and we have a 30-minute drive home. I didn't pack snacks (coffee is more important), but I keep a stash of Stretch Island fruit leathers in my van for times such as these. Each of us choses a flavor and eat on the way home. At home I heat a can of baked beans on the stove and get two turkey burgers going in my cast iron skillet. I also throw in two of the Bug's special hot dogs to cook along with the burgers. Each of the two older girls has a turkey burger and I split the can of baked beans between the three of them, served, of course, in a ramekin. I heat a ramekin of leftover spinach-artichoke dip in the microwave and throw a piece of ham into the same skillet I just cooked the burgers in. I eat the dip with tortilla chips.

2:15 p.m. We were able to get an hour's worth of schoolwork in before leaving for the gym. I need to stop by Terra on my way home to pick up the few veggies I couldn't get this weekend. I almost threw away the whole bag of rolls we bought for the party since we aren't able to eat them, but then decided that I could make a breakfast casserole for my friend who recently accepted a new foster placement. I have almost everything I need for this ham and cheese breakfast casserole, I just need to pick up some cheese and milk. I add those to my mental list.

Get the recipe: Make-Ahead "Ham and Cheese" Breakfast Casserole from Kitchn

Terra

Cashew milk, $3.39
Shredded cheese, $4.29
Sugar snap peas, $4.49
Clementines, $4.91
Brussels sprouts, $5.44

Total, including tax: $23.81

5:30 p.m. It's time to start dinner. Tonight I'm making a simple soup with the chicken stock that I made earlier this week. I throw in some bacon, potatoes, and leeks. While everything cooks I go ahead and caramelize the onion for the breakfast casserole I'm giving my friend.

We all sit down to eat together; the two older girls and I have two big bowls of the soup. The Bug really hates soup so she just has a small scoop. All three girls have a handful of lentil chips. The Bug is still hungry so she has some of the sugar snap peas we bought this afternoon. They are super fresh and she has a great time making really loud crunching noises with them.

8:30 p.m. The girls head to bed and I clean up the kitchen. I put one pound of the dried pinto beans I purchased on Saturday to soak on the stove. Wednesday is a busy day for us and if I don't have a slow cooker meal ready to go in the morning, it frequently means we are eating eggs for dinner. While I'm cleaning up I spy the remaining lemon curd in my fridge; I shamelessly get a spoon and eat three or four bites like it's pudding.

Day 5: Wednesday

6:30 a.m. The two older girls are up and eat a bowl of cereal. I buy them one box of cereal every week. I buy a cereal from Love Grown that is made from beans. It's still sugary cereal, but I feel a little better about it. The older girls each use coconut milk in their bowls. The eldest eats a banana while the middle grabs one of the oranges we picked up yesterday.

I get started prepping my slow cooker dinner. I need to chop ham and an onion and get everything going. I use all of the ham that we have left from the party. We have a therapist coming to the house this morning, and I need to get moving!

7:30 a.m. It's time for coffee. The Bug is up and eats her portion of the cereal and a pear. The girls eat the entire box of cereal in one sitting. That's another reason they only get it once per week! I make two over-easy eggs for myself and the eldest wants one too, so I make her one over hard.

8:30 a.m. We got an early start to our school but when my daughter's therapist arrives I take a break to chat briefly and make myself another cup of coffee.

10:30 a.m. We take another quick brain break. Everyone is a bit cranky so I give the girls a treat, mini marshmallows and dark chocolate chips. I eat some too and add in a few dried apricots. While the girls take five minutes to chill I make two pans of kale chips with the kale I bought on Saturday. I use the whole bunch.

When the kale is almost done I put some water on to boil. We like a pasta made from chickpeas that I can buy at Costco. Each box contains five eight-ounce bags of pasta. One bag makes just enough to fill up the three girls. I'll serve this with butter and garlic salt.

11:30 a.m. Everything is done and the girls eat while I finish reading some of the science curriculum. I just have enough time to heat a bowl of the potato leek soup and eat a piece of toast. The girls finish the pasta and almost eat all of the kale. I get a few bites. I cut up the mango but unfortunately it's started to rot already. I also cut up a pear for the three of them to split. The Bug finishes with some roasted sunflower seeds. We pack snacks and get out the door.

2:00 p.m. After the girl's piano lesson we drive straight to the gym. The girls eat the snack they packed while we drive. The older two girls and I have a bag of kettle corn. The Bug eats lentil chips.

4:00 p.m. Home and I am starving, I have not eaten enough protein today. I get some tortilla chips and eat an individual serving cup of hummus with Sriracha sauce. The girls want more food so I offer them veggies from the fridge. The middle mixes a bag of cornbread mix and gets it in the oven for dinner. After I shower I start to put together the breakfast casserole. My husband is home from his trip and we look forward to having dinner together! He'll take the casserole to our friends while I get the girls to church tonight.

5:00 p.m. Tonight is an early dinner so we can get to church. The girls serve themselves ham and beans and cornbread. We finish the last of my homemade kombucha and it will be another four or five days until my next batch is ready. My husband finishes the last of the kale chips on the baking sheet. There is half a pan of cornbread leftover, but only one generous serving of the ham and beans.

7:00 p.m. The girls each get a packet of organic fruit snacks provided by the church. I come home and have a piece of cornbread with butter. My husband gets a beer and I get a LaCroix. We eat a lot of Skinny Pop White Cheddar while we relax with a TV show.

Day 6: Thursday

7:00 a.m. My husband is getting ready to walk out the door when I come down. He ate a piece of cornbread and made his French press coffee. The Bug has got some of her mini muffins from the freezer and eats five with an orange and three Jones sausage links. The middle got up early and made some pumpkin muffins with the leftover can of pumpkin. She even makes a streusel topping. When they come out of the oven the big girls and I each eat two and I press myself a cup of coffee. This day looks like it is going to be pretty chill. There is a wintery mix hitting town and almost everything is getting canceled.

(Image credit: Christie H.)

9:00 a.m. We got a good start on our school today because I told the girls when they finished up we could have a "snow day" and watch a movie with hot cocoa. My husband comes back home since his boss sent everyone home to telework before the roads get any worse. I press a second cup of coffee and we keep working. At some point during the morning I get us all a snack: dried apricots for the older girls and Medjool dates for the Bug.

12:00 p.m. My husband comes down to eat lunch with us. I heat up a small saucepan on the stove and steam frozen peas from my gigantic Costco bag. I reheat the last of the potato soup and the leftover ham and beans from last night. I also heat up the last of the cornbread. I make two pieces of gluten-free toast with blueberry jam and heat up three sausage links for myself. I also snack on some Bubba's banana chips.

2:00 p.m. My husband built us a fire when he came down for lunch so we finish our schoolwork in front of the fireplace. Then it's the promised "snow day." In place of going to the gym we make hot chocolate and watch a classic: an old VHS copy of Ever After. I heat the cashew milk on the stove and whisk in cocoa powder, sugar, and homemade bourbon vanilla extract. The Bug gets a cup of hemp milk with the same treatment. I top everyone's mug with some mini marshmallows.

(Image credit: Christie H.)

4:30 p.m. I almost always roast a chicken on Thursday nights because my daughter normally has therapy until late. I roast according to directions from Nigella Lawson in her book How to Eat.

5:30 p.m. Time to finish dinner, so I get potatoes peeled and chopped and add them to the pan with the chicken for the last 30 minutes of roasting time. I also prep Brussels sprouts and cut them in half and get a pan boiling on the stove. After dinner I strip the chicken from the bones to use for tomorrow and freeze the carcass to make stock with next week.

Day 7: Friday

6:30 a.m. The middle is up and starts to make everyone pancakes. We make vegan buckwheat pancakes that just use buckwheat flour, hemp milk, an egg replacer, maple syrup, and a few other ingredients. The middle is getting fancy today and she adds cocoa powder and a few drops of peppermint essential oil to make "chocolate mint buckwheat pancakes." I love that she enjoys cooking and is getting brave enough to do her own thing in the kitchen.

I head down to our deep freeze and take out two packages of steaks to make for dinner tonight, plus a one-pound package of ground beef for lunch. I am slightly horrified to realize that almost all of our pork is gone. It only lasted about three-and-a-half months.

11:00 a.m. A friend is coming over to deliver a birthday gift for my daughter and have lunch with me. I am making chicken salad with the leftover meat from last night. My friend is bringing a salad. I quickly brown the ground beef I got out this morning and make some taco meat for the girls with seasoning that I make and store in my pantry. I prep fresh veggies — three carrots get peeled and chopped, the sugar snap peas are set in a bowl and the rest of the mini peppers are set out. I am super bummed to find out that our last organic cucumber is rotted and gross. We didn't eat it in time, unfortunately. I made an emergency call to my friend while I was prepping and she brings a stalk of celery for our chicken salad.

12:00 p.m. Unfortunately lunch is rushed because I need to get the eldest to her class at the therapy center. I normally do volunteer work for the center while she is in class, but they don't need me this week. I take my bonus time and decide to go to Costco. I have a firm rule against Costco shopping on the weekends so I go whenever I can find time during the week. We go to Costco about once every 10 days or about three times per month. I get some dates and when I get back home the middle and the Bug go to work to make homemade "Larabars."

Costco

Peanut butter, $9.99
Tortillas, $4.49
Rice, $9.79
Coffee, $14.79
Marinara sauce, $9.69
Irish butter, $7.99
Eggs, $5.99
Bananas, $1.84
Strawberries, $4.99
Dates, $8.99
Spinach, $4.79

Total, including tax: $88.01

3:00 p.m. I was planning on using the steaks to make a stir-fry tonight. We have snap peas and carrots left of our fresh veggies, but I find out my husband had a stir-fry from the cafeteria at work for his lunch today. I improvise and decide that we will have steaks with frozen green beans. I'll still make the rice to fill out the meal.

5:30 p.m. We didn't go through our carrots this week so I decide to cut them up and glaze them for the girls.

(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

7:00 p.m. Whenever I make cookies I always double the batch and freeze the cookie dough in balls to use later. The mood has struck. I bake enough for two ginger cookies each. The Bug will have some chocolate chips since I used eggs in these cookies and she can't eat them. The girls play a game while I read on the couch. My husband finishes about half the bottle of the red he bought tonight. It's been a full week, but I realize I still have a container of lemon curd in my fridge. Tomorrow morning we might make drop biscuits so it doesn't go to waste.

Liquor Store

Spanish red wine, $13

Total including tax: $13

(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

Note that I went over my budget this week because of the additional shopping I did for my daughter's birthday party. I also set aside $50 a week to buy my yearly meat in bulk, and that has been included in this total amount spent for the week.

(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

1. How did you set your food budget?

We let health needs determine the budget. Our priority is to raise our three growing girls on a nutritious "whole food" diet of very plain ingredients. We highly prioritize organic produce, and we save money every paycheck for irregular meat purchases. We buy half a cow, half a hog, and 50 chickens every year from a local family farmer as well as eggs. We substitute standard grains and dairy with more uncommon items like buckwheat and hemp. We pay for the higher-quality food because we believe it has helped keep us prescription-free. We are about five years into this health journey and so far it is working.

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

With the food allergies that I work around, I keep a huge pantry. I make all of my own seasoning mixes. We go through several cans of chickpeas a week usually. We shop at Costco probably three times a month for organic items like berries, bananas, baby spinach, maple syrup, and snacks, plus deals on bulk coffee, olive oil, cane sugar, and butter.

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

We are in the middle of a crazy cold winter right now, so I am making a lot of soup. Since I always have chicken carcasses on hand I make stock a lot. I also roast vegetables several times a week. We normally don't end up with very many leftovers, but we do make a huge effort to always eat leftovers up and not waste or throw away.

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