As the clock struck midnight on December 31st and we all turned our calendars to a new year, we were met with record high inflation and soaring food prices. Most families also quickly realized that the official rate of 7% overall inflation on food was substantially higher in reality. A more accurate view would set the price hikes at closer to 25%.
My YouTube viewers have been expressing concerns over rapidly rising food prices. So, I decided to do a four week February Grocery Savings Challenge every Thursday on YouTube.
Both the YouTube series and the series here on the website will chronicle my journey to feed my family for no more than $50 a week for the next four weeks.
To watch the first video in the series, click below. I show each item in the haul and give frugal strategies for stretching ingredients and making the most of every dollar.
So, how does the average person continue to feed their family each week without breaking the bank?
In 2021, during the midst of record-breaking inflation, I averaged just under $225 each month to feed our family of four.
I am helped through the fact that I barter some of my time each summer in exchange for some fresh produce each week. However, even if I added the value of that food into my budget, my total expenses for food would still be just $250 each month.
Using my recent grocery haul as the basis of this $50 weekly menu, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I add in additional ingredients I used from our pantry and freezer to create the recipes for this week’s menu.
I began by heading to my favorite ethnic food market, The Mediterranean Mart. Owner, Saeed Yousseff, receives a truckload of fresh breads, products, and produce from Chicago every Thursday. That means, on Friday, he is emptying shelves of last week’s produce at bargain prices.
Here’s what I got:
- $2.00 for six bunches of organic green onions
- $1.50 for two bunches of collard greens
- $2.50 for 5 bunches of organic rainbow carrots (with the tops included)
- $2.25 per large bag of organic spinach
- $5.24 for a pound of walnut halves
- a very large bulb of garlic
My second stop was Aldi, where I bought
- $1.49 for celery
- $.75 each for 2 cucumbers
- 12 oz. bag of kale
- 8 pounds of oranges – on sale for $2.69 for each 4-pound bag
- $.85 each for 2 boxes of saltine crackers
This Week’s Menu
Let’s take a look at the topical menu that I created, using all of the perishable ingredients from my $30.60 grocery haul and ingredients that I already had on hand in the house.
What exactly did we eat?
We eat nearly the same things every week for breakfast, alternating between old fashioned oatmeal, cream of wheat, corn grits, and steel cut oats. If we have fruit available, we top the cereal with it. Otherwise, we use cinnamon and sugar and a splash of plant-based milk.
Breakfast costs us an average of $1.25 a day for all four of us, depending on whether we add fruit to our hot cereal.
I began maximizing the use of fresh ingredients, by creating Mediterranean inspired collard greens stuffed with rice, raisins, nuts, and small cubes of butternut squash. The dish was flavored with dried mint, cinnamon, curry, and garam masala. Each collard green roll was topped by a homemade marinara sauce.
The carrot tops did not go to waste, either. The larger stems were removed and the tops washed. I then created a quick carrot top pesto sauce. It made one cup of pesto, which was enough to nicely cover 24 ounces of pasta.
The thick stems from both the carrot tops and collard greens were washed and frozen for later use making homemade vegetable broth.
The carrots made an appearance in four recipes: rice salad, carrot dogs, black bean soup, and roasted root vegetables.
- Black Bean Tostadas
- Carrot Top Pesto
- Quarter Pound Beet Burgers
- Barbecue Lentil Sandwiches
- Mediterranean Stuffed Collard Greens
- Carrot Dogs
- Stir Fry over Rice
Fresh, hot soup is not only really easy to make it’s also incredibly inexpensive. We eat soup nearly every day for lunch and this week it was butternut squash soup and black bean chili on the menu.
Focusing on staying out of the grocery store, sometimes means making more items from scratch. A double batch of cornbread made 32 muffins, while just eight corn tortillas were cut into eighths to create a homemade (and much healthier) version of Doritos.
Homemade wheat tortillas are incredibly easy to make and cost about $.04 per tortilla. I’ve used the same homemade tortilla recipe for many years and the tortillas consistently turn our soft and perfectly spotted with light brown on both sides.
Don’t be afraid to serve your family several side dishes for supper one night. You don’t need a main dish as a focal point for every meal. When there is more variety, everyone gets to try a little bit of each item, making meals more interesting (and often less expensive, in the long run).
- Cornbread Muffins
- Homemade “Doritos’
- Homemade Tortillas
Salads can either be served with other items or as a stand-alone main dish, making them very versatile. I often combine several salads on my plate, add a piece of fresh fruit, and that is my dinner for the evening.
Cost of the Ingredients Added from My Pantry
Total Cost of This Week’s Menu
Remember, the goal was no more than $50, including the cost of any groceries that I purchased and the cost of ingredients that I added from home to create the recipes in the menu.
What’s on your menu this week?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Tell me what you’re eating this week and how you’re saving money at the grocery store.
18 thoughts on “February Grocery Challenge (Week 1): $50 Weekly Menu”
Thanks. I’ve been wanting to try the carrot dogs!!
Awesome. We’ve used the same recipe for many years and love it. She calls for coriander, which we never use. They turn out great without it.
This is super helpful and inspiring! I would love if you also put on pantry list where you purchased the ingredients, as it looks like a lot of them are really good prices. I recently found your YouTube channel and am really enjoying it and trying to learn all I can. Thanks for the great content!
Get get a lot of items on markdown or using a 20% off coupon for Big Lots or in bulk from a local Amish-owned store. Thanks for asking.
Hope…just recently found your youtube channel and blog. Since I’m in the Chicago area, could you tell me where Mediterranean Mart is located? Thanks…Karen
Hi, Karen, the Mediterranean Mart is in Peoria.
Love it! Thank you for reminding me to seek lentil bbq, burger, and taco recipes. I love them and they are free for me at the food pantry where I volunteer.
I’m not really a menu planner but keep a stocked pantry, (usually) allowing me to make whatever I want that day (am mostly vegan and OMAD).
WHERE do you find oats for $.50/lb? It’s another must have for me. Tomorrow I’m baking oat bread, cookies and muffins!
We buy them in bulk from an Amish-owned store. They actually recently went up in price. I have to look at my menu now. I think I under-estimated that price a little bit.
Thank you for taking the time to post menu and recipes. It is a great help!
You are very welcome.
I like the idea of a soup for lunch and making a large enough amount so it could be used as a side if kids are still hungry after eating what I have served for dinner. Usually I have them make a bowl of oatmeal if they are still hungry. We’re in a growing season and what was once a good amount is more and more not enough 🙂 Just about every Saturday I make some sort of soup from the week’s leftovers for lunch.
Rachel, you’re right. Kids hit those growth spurts and they pretty much eat all day long. Sounds like you have a great plan.
My grocery goal for Feb will be to stay in budget and not borrow from the miscellaneous budget category!
Great goal, Rachel! We love it.
Would love to know how you make the rice salad and toastdas.
Love your YouTube channel
For the tostadas I just toasted the corn tortillas and then topped them with some lightly smashed, cooked black beans which I seasoned with chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, and a good sprinkle of smoked paprika. Then, I added whatever one would use on top of tacos. I made the rice salad up as I went along, but since several people asked about the recipe, I’ll make it again before the end of the February Grocery Challenge and then I’ll track exactly what I do and write it up as a recipe on the website.
I make a lot of soups, a lot that I can freeze, I did buy 3 10 lb. bags of potatoes. I am canning those. But my husband doesnt eat cereal or oatmeal. He might eat soup for dinner or a sandwich, but not stuffed collard greens, he will eat collard greens. and I know he isn’t eating Beet burgers.
Hi, Shirley. Thanks so much for your comment. Canning the potatoes is a great idea. So, does your husband like his greens cooked traditionally? Most of my friends cook them with some bacon and then some onions and garlic. I like them that way, too. But, minus the bacon. I add some liquid smoke to give it a smoky flavor without the bacon. The beet burgers seriously do not taste like beets. My kids who don’t like beets love those burgers.