30 September 2015

A $75 a Week Meal Plan

We Armstrong's like our food. We eat well, with lots of variety in our meals (unless it's Thursday and then it's always pizza night!). So, when a journalist called me late yesterday afternoon and asked me for a meal plan for the $300 a Month Food Challenge I wasn't fazed at all.

The hard part was choosing which meal plans to send to them. Then they asked for a complete meal plan - breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. And they needed it right away.

Every month I do a meal plan, or rather a dinner plan, for my family (I share it in the Member's Centre). I'm sure I've told you before how Tom loves to look at the fridge and know what he'll be eating for tea (and how he stirs me when I change it on him :) ). We all do.  It's reassuring to me to be able to glance at the fridge and just know what I need to prepare for tonight, tomorrow, next week - the rest of the year actually, because I've done the meal plan right up to 31st December 2015, and it's on the fridge.

What that meal plan also does is help to keep our grocery bill low; really, really low. I budget $320 a month for groceries. Now some months I am on budget, some months I might be under by a few dollars and occasionally I go over. But at the end of the year, when I tally up the grocery tracking sheets, I always average $320 a month for groceries - we don't have the money to go over budget. Right now I'm using my grocery budget to build our grocery stockpile for the changes we're facing next year.

Well it took me 20 minutes to put it together for them, but I was able to come up with a meal plan that included three meals and a snack every day for a week. And bring it in under $75.

That was the tricky part. I'm used to working on a monthly meal plan and a monthly budget. That means I can share ingredients across a few meals, spreading the cost over the month. I couldn't do this for just a week so I had to choose cheap, nutritious meals and not go over the $75.

Here's the meal plan I came up with, it's plain, simple food. No frills or gourmet delights but it fills tummies, is reasonably healthful and very cheap.

Pancakes & Syrup
Weetbix & Milk, 
1/2 sliced banana
Boiled egg, toast,
fruit & yoghurt
Weetbix & Milk, sliced peaches
Boiled egg, toast,
fruit & yoghurt
Weetbix & Milk, 
sliced peaches
Baked beans on toast, fruit & yoghurt
Morning Tea
Muffin, milk
Trail Mix
Carrot & celery sticks, dip
Trail Mix
Carrot & celery sticks, dip
Trail Mix
Muffin, milk
Toasted cheese sandwiches
Chicken salad sandwich,  carrot sticks, dip
Sausage rolls, muffin, apple
salad wrap, mandarin,
Lunchbox Cookie
Cheese & Vegemite sandwiches,
mandarin, muffin
Egg sandwich, apple,  yoghurt
Salad sandwiches
Afternoon Tea
ANZAC slice, milk
Pita chips, dip
Pita chips, dip
Pita chips, dip
Pita chips, dip
Pita chips, dip
Chocolate cupcakes, milk
Roast chicken, baked potato, peas, corn, carrots, gravy 
Rissoles, mash, peas, corn, carrots, gravy, apple
sponge, cream
Spag bol, salad,
Tinned fruit & custard
Grilled sausages, potato bake, peas, corn, carrots
MOO Pizza & garlic bread, Fruit & jelly
Tuna Casserole,
 green salad, wedges

This meal plan will feed a family of four for a week for $75. It will depend of course on:

1. Brands - always choose the cheapest, usually a generic, but not always. And sometimes a special isn't really a special - always check the unit price.

2. Portion control - remember if a recipe serves six, get six serves. Put the two spare into the freezer for freezer meals - they are free dinners and will really help keep your grocery budget low.

3. Cook from scratch - no buying pre-prepared or packaged or convenience meals or parts of meals. MOO yoghurt, muffins, biscuits, pastry for the sausage rolls, dip, pita chips, gravy, wedges, pancakes and pancake syrup. 

4. Making a shopping list, after doing a fridge, freezer and pantry check, only adding the ingredients you need to buy. If you only need 5 apples, buy just 5 apples, don't spend money on food you don't need.

5. Sticking to the list. If it's not on the list, you don't buy it. If you think you'll need it, find a substitute in the ingredients you already have.

6. Shop around - you won't find any one store with the lowest prices on everything. Be prepared to shop at a couple of different food stores/butchers/green grocers.


  1. Well done! It comes in even cheaper with your own eggs and the occasional fish from the hunter hubby lol- good plain kiwi tucker!!

  2. Yes it does! And grow a few veggies and put in a few fruit trees and you can save even more. Over time you get a collection of freezer meals from leftovers too, another source of free meals. It is easy to feed the family on a tight budget, you just need to be a little creative and think about what you buy and how you use it.

  3. This is great Cath!

    I have been doing a monthly menu plan (just teas/dinners) since the workshop in Adelaide. I find that I am not going to the shops very often any more. My pantry is stocked as I have been shopping the specials. My freezers are full, so I just need to get fresh fruit and veggies once a week. As I use something from my stockpile, I jot it down on my list located in the pantry. My other cupboards around the house are now holding quite a few items that I have picked up on special.

    Thank you for this post, it will be very helpful :)


    1. Thank you Tania. I usually only plan tea/dinner too. Our breakfasts and lunches are always the same so everyone knows what they're eating.

      I'm so excited that you're already in maintenance mode with your stockpile, it makes shopping so much easier and cheaper - you just wait until whatever you've used comes back on sale then replace it.

      Have a lovely weekend - is it your area that is forecast for 40 degrees over the weekend?

  4. I cant wait for my vegies to grow Cath, i worked it out today that i would have saved $30 this week and over $50 last week so im really ready to have an edible garden :) This is a great Post thankyou :)

  5. I find it a bit more difficult on a vegan diet to stick to $75 a week but this has some good things to think on. Definitely need to do more weetbix and soy milk I think!


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