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Low Cost Real Food Menu for Your Family

Updated on May 20, 2010

It seems I have created quite a stir on Hubpages regarding my hub Is It Cheaper To Eat Fast Food or Real Food? The response has been all over the board, much of it depending on where people live. I understand that food prices vary, but I still firmly believe that a family can eat real food for much cheaper than fast food. In the previous hub I gave a few ideas of what a family could buy at the store on $10 a day (the estimated cost of the fast food meal purchased off the dollar menu). It seems many people still don't think it is possible to actually cook decent food for that price. I am going to show you how in this hub.

Really if a family of four ate 3 meals a day from a fast food restaurant, they are probably spending $30 a day on food. But let's make this a challenge and figure $10 a day or $70 for the week. I will show you exactly what you can buy to feed your family (I will assume a family of 4 as that is the average family size in the United States) for the week. Real food at a low cost. No, it won't be possible to feed your family all organic, but real food doesn't have to be organic. Organic might be better for you, but most people can't afford it 100% of the time.

Food bought at the store (keep in mind I am in Ohio and prices might vary throughout the country)

2 lbs carrots (not baby carrots) $1.79

3 lbs bananas $1.47 (set aside 3 bananas for banana bread)

5 lb bag of potatoes $2.99

head of lettuce $1.49

1 cucumber $.99

3 lb bag of apples $2.99

1 onion $.79

2 bags of frozen veggies (I would pick green beans and peas) $2

bag of frozen broccoli $1

bag of frozen corn $1

whole chicken $5

1 lb ground beef $1.99

2 lbs pasta $2

1 tub of peanut butter $1

2 loaves of bread $2

1 large can of spaghetti sauce $1.25

8 oz block of cheddar cheese $1.88

8 oz block of mozzarella cheese $1.88

2 dozen eggs $2.50

5 lb bag of sugar $2.79

5 lb bag of flour $1.99

bag of popping corn $1.29

2 cans of tomato soup $1.38

2 boxes of corn muffin mix $.98

gallon of milk $2.29

can of OJ concentrate $1.69

organic mac n cheese $1.25

1 lb dry beans (whatever kind you like) $.89

large tub of yogurt (pick your flavor) $2.29

Total spent at this point is $52.85. I am assuming that the average family has the basic condiments and baking supplies, but I did factor in flour and sugar, as cooking from scratch is essential to eating real food on a budget. Use the remaining budget to fill in as needed with what you like or don't already have on hand. Here is the menu for the week.


banana bread, yogurt x2

toast with peanut butter, fruit x2

eggs (cook them how you like them), fruit x2

pancakes, yogurt


leftovers if there are any

peanut butter sandwiches, carrots, fruit x2

mac n cheese (I had to include every kid's favorite), carrots

chicken salad sandwiches, fruit

baked potatoes

bean and cheese quesadillas


Roasted chicken with potatoes, carrots and 1/2 the onion, green beans - pick the meat off the chicken after dinner and then boil the bones in a large pot of water for chicken broth. If you have vinegar add a couple of tablespoons to leech the calcium from the bones. You can add carrot peelings and onion skins for extra nutrition. The broth will cook for a couple of hours and strained once it is cooled.

Spaghetti, salad (lettuce, cucumber and carrot) - brown the other half of the onion with the ground beef. Use half of this mixture in the spaghetti sauce to go over the pasta. After the meal set aside some of this sauce to go on your pizza.

Chicken noodle soup, corn muffins - boil the broth from the other night and add a cup or so of leftover chopped chicken (then use the rest for chicken salad sandwiches), 1/2 bag frozen corn, and 2 sliced carrots.

Grilled cheese, tomato soup, peas

Pizza with beef and cheese, salad - Make your own crust, there are recipes all over the internet and it is very easy.

Baked potatoes topped with broccoli and cheese, corn muffins

Bean and cheese quesadillas, leftover veggies from previous nights You will need to make tortillas from scratch, but they are super easy.


I realize this is where it will get hard, as so many people love soda. But it is horrible for you and one of the quickest ways to spend less on food is to cut this out. Drink water, milk or OJ.


I have 4 kids and I realize how much snacking goes on in families. You can munch on fruit, boiled eggs, toast with cheese, peanut butter, or cinnamon and sugar, or pop some popcorn.

While this menu might not please everyone, I hope it shows you exactly how feeding your family real food can be done. You still have plenty of room in the $70 budget to buy extras that you feel you can't live without. Everyone might not agree with these food choices, but all your major food groups are covered every day. This menu is full of real ingredients and lots of produce. Enjoy!


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    • daisydayz profile image

      Chantele Cross-Jones 

      6 years ago from Cardiff

      It is definietly cheaper to cook fresh. Plus I have found buying from the fresh markets in the UK bring the costs down even more than the super market adn you get much high quality, as its locally grown

      Great Hub

    • Jennifer profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      There are plenty of fruits in this diet - apples, bananas, cucumbers and a can of orange juice. Fish is very expensive. Adding tuna wouldn't be that much and prices do vary around the country. Especially based on the season.

      This is just a sample menu of how a family can eat real foods at a low cost. This is not meant to be all a family ever eats week after week.

    • profile image

      zak smith 

      6 years ago

      no offence to the author but an important omission has been made in this blog and that is the real price for fresh fruit and fish.this has has been left the food list which imo is integral to diet of any family in the world.sticking to the basics is great but to have a fully rounded diet with all the supplements needed to add variety taste and the health to a modern families diet is a truth no one is fully willing to admit to yet.

    • htodd profile image


      7 years ago from United States

      The menu is really informative..Thanks for the info.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great article- thanks for the ideas!

    • katrinasui profile image


      8 years ago

      Definitely it is cheaper to cook a meal than to buy one. Thanks for the nice recipe.

    • BrainSpace profile image


      8 years ago from North Carolina

      This is a really good article. I spend about $50 every two weeks on groceries for myself, and usually have stuff left over at the end of the two weeks.

      You are definitely right about the sodas. I recently stopped drinking sodas. Now I drink water and tea that I make using my ice tea maker and this probably saves me about $40 a month. Not to mention I feel much better since I stopped drinking sodas.

      -Follow me and I will follow you-

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      More grease to your elbow and more recipe for you pots

    • febriedethan profile image


      8 years ago from Indonesia

      Thank you for the tips, especially about the chicken broth! Bravo!

    • parrster profile image

      Richard Parr 

      8 years ago from Australia

      Now, if only we could get the real food prepared, cooked and packaged in a convenient way so that I didn't have to spend any time in the kitchen...


    • Granny's House profile image

      Granny's House 

      8 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

      You can also save by growing some of your own because you can grow a lot then freeze or can it. Great hub

    • breakfastpop profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks for a fact filled intelligent piece of writing.

    • jansworld profile image


      8 years ago from New Caney, Texas, USA

      As a mother of 7 kids, I can really relate to saving money at the grocery store. I buy like you, and in bulk when I can. I cook from scratch and don't buy the boxed "dinner" mixes. This is the first hub I have read from you and plan on going back to your previous posts to get some other tips on how to save some pennies! Great job! SMILES :-)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Good job, Jennifer! Keep up the good work!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Well we are a family of four with a dh and ds that do not use the dollar menu and when we go to McDonalds it is easy to spend around $20.00 there. Your prices are alittle lower than here in Western PA but I totally agree about eating a home vs. eating out. The worse for me is after spending all that money is to think that most of the time my food taste better and defintely cost less. The only thing I will aways eat out is Chinese because mine never is as good.

    • 4FoodSafety profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 

      8 years ago from Fontana, WI

      Great Hub! I really enjoy your articles.

      We make our own pizza with pineapple - love it! First class foods are what I try to call real food - the advertising age has tainted us against real food.

      The planning is the hard part - you are absolutely correct!

    • Jennifer profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Jeff, you are right one of the keys is planning. Even I run out of time sometimes or forget to plan ahead.

    • JenDobson27 profile image


      8 years ago

      Saying that fast food is cheaper than real food is just a lame excuse for eating fast food all of the time! Fast food is more convenient, and it sure seems like they put something "special" in it because sometimes I literally feel like I'm addicted to it. You're absolutely right Jeff that the hardest part about eating real food is the planning. It's especially tough if both husband and wife work because they both get home around dinner time feeling tired and neither one wants to cook. I guess that's where better planning comes into play :) Great hub Jennifer!

    • Jeff Berndt profile image

      Jeff Berndt 

      8 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      This is great stuff. Of course real food is less expensive than fast food, not only in price (what we pay in money) but also in real cost (what we pay in environmental damage, health damage, etc.).

      But people don't think about the hidden costs, and planning (which you have to do if you want to eat real food) is hard. It's so much easier to just buy fast food; you don't have to cook it, you don't have to clean up afterward, and probably most importantly, you don't have to think about it much.

      Thanks for these food hubs, Jennifer. Please keep it up.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Interesting stuff Jennifer.

    • SteveoMc profile image


      8 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      Good job with the menu. More realistic and lots yummier than the last one. Still feel that your menu could be increased in several ways because the fast food menu is underestimated.

      Thanks for keeping up thinking.

    • Ann Nonymous profile image

      Ann Nonymous 

      8 years ago from Virginia

      This was a great hub to start on from my "long" absence...This is definitely helpful and just a few hours ago I was thinking how depressing to invest soooo much $$$$ on food. Great hub, Jennifer!

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 

      8 years ago

      My grown daughter spends over $100.00 on food just for herself, for about 4 days. I tell her she eats as though every day is Sunday, crab stuffed jumbo shrimp one night, marinated steak tips the next, plus side dishes. Crazy!

    • Healing Touch profile image

      Laura Arne 

      8 years ago from Minnetonka, MN

      nice job. As a single mom of two, I totally believe that making food at home is more cost saving and more bonding for the family.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      It definitely is cheaper to cook a meal than to buy one. Also it taste better.

    • Specialk3749 profile image

      Karen Metz 

      8 years ago from Michigan

      This is a very good sample of how it is to be done! You can get extra savings too with coupons, sales, etc.. My hardest meal of the day is lunch. Since I homeschool my kids, and I don't feel like cooking 3 full meals a day and none of us are big fans of sandwhiches, it is hard not to buy frozen pizza, etc.. That is where the majority of my budget is blown. Do you have any good simple suggestions for lunches?

    • rkhyclak profile image


      8 years ago from Ohio

      Great follow up hub to the previous one!


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