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    I Feed My Family Of Five For Less Than $100 A Week β€” Here's The Meal Planning Routine I Follow To Do That

    Raise your hand if your house is always hungry.

    Hi! I'm Sydney. I'm a stay-at-home mom of three, and I cook homemade meals for my Colorado family every week.

    The author smiling in a selfie
    Sydney Martin

    I know cooking and meal-prepping can be stressful to some, but I honestly love it. It’s also a necessity in my house because with three kids under seven, I need to run a pretty tight ship. I usually spend less than an hour a day cooking β€” and I'm strategic about stretching leftovers into more meals throughout the week.

    Various meals that the author cooked throughout the week
    Sydney Martin

    Also, because my household has a severe peanut allergy, we don’t rely on much takeout.

    Each week, I start all my planning on Saturday. This includes choosing the recipes I will make for the week ahead β€” via blogs, Pinterest, and cookbooks β€” plus the actual shopping.

    A Pinterest board of saved meal prep recipes

    After my recipes are picked, I compare prices via different grocery store apps β€” and will usually chose to do curbside pickup or delivery in order to avoid bringing my kids into the store. Not only does this save me from public meltdowns and additional grocery items on my list for bribes, but it also saves me time and money.

    This past week, curbside pickup won out. My total of $83.10 at King Soopers was a whopping $79 cheaper than Instacart delivery β€” all for the exact same items.

    Price comparison between grocery store pickup ($83.10) and Instacart delivery ($162.74).
    Sydney Martin

    Instacart delivery is never really the cheapest option, but sometimes it's a lot closer in price β€” especially because I have the yearly membership.

    And here are a few other things to note up front:

    β€’ The $83 covered about 85% of our meals for the week ahead. The other 15% covered kitchen and pantry staples (e.g., cereal or oatmeal for breakfast, or turkey sandwiches for lunch) that I always keep stocked and bulk-buy from Costco about once a month.

    β€’ Dinners almost always roll over into lunch for the next day. My kids are young enough where they're not typically eating a full adult-size portion, so I'm able to stretch things, which is great.

    β€’ For the kids, I don't make modifications β€” other than spiciness level. I know kids can be picky, but one thing that's worked well for my family is me asking the kids to help pick out recipes when I'm looking. I find that they are more excited to eat the meals that they picked themselves!

    Here's how this week went!

    Sunday: For breakfast, I made this lemon blueberry sheet pan pancake.

    Sydney Martin

    This recipe was from Skinnytaste. I absolutely adore Gina Homolka, and her recipes are A+ in my book.

    I recommend it! It saves me time, prep, and effort by making one big oven-baked pancake that I can then slice and eat throughout the week (or freeze for later) β€” and I don't have to stand over the stove to flip.

    The author's sheet pan pancake
    Sydney Martin

    The pancakes came together quickly and were full of flavor. The only thing I would try differently next time would be to bake them 25 degrees higher since I'm baking at a higher elevation. I think this would help achieve a more golden-brown color.

    We kept the leftovers in the fridge and ate them for breakfast through the middle of the week. They were a hit!

    Lemon-Blueberry Sheet Pan Pancakes plated
    Sydney Martin

    For the remaining breakfasts in the week, we turned to pantry staples: cereal, toast, oatmeal, etc.

    Recipe: Lemon Blueberry Sheet Pan Pancake

    The weather here on Sunday was beautiful, so I didn't want to spend too much time cooking. My husband and I took the kids to the playground in the late afternoon, and I was able to put dinner together quickly once we got home.

    Dinner was sheet pan Hawaiian chicken. The biggest things I look for when choosing a recipe is that it is fairly simple, has a good amount of protein, and includes vegetables. This recipe checked all those boxes!

    Ingredients for sheet pan Hawaiian chicken
    Sydney Martin

    Prep was minimal: just a bit of slicing and dicing, then tossing everything onto the sheet pan.

    Sheet pan Hawaiian chicken in the oven
    Sydney Martin

    I really love sheet pan recipes because they're extremely easy to clean up afterwards, especially if you line the sheet pan with foil or parchment first.

    I also loved this because it gave us a taste of the summer flavors that are right around the corner.

    Hawaiian Chicken plated
    Sydney Martin

    Leftovers from this dinner stretched into the next day's lunch, as they usually do.

    Recipe: Sheet Pan Hawaiian Chicken

    Breakfast and lunch were leftovers. For dinner, I broke out my Instant Pot to make a big batch of barbacoa beef to use as the base for burrito bowls.

    Ingredients for barbacoa beef
    Sydney Martin

    Prepping the meat was quick and easy β€” and called for a beer braise. My husband often tries different beers but doesn't always love them. This means I have random cans of beer in my fridge for an unknown period of time. This was the perfect recipe to clear out some space on my top shelf.

    Braising the beef in an Instant Pot
    Sydney Martin

    The meat needed about an hour in the Instant Pot, so while it cooked, I made a side of rice and a fresh corn salsa.

    Sydney Martin

    This salsa was simple and mostly consisted of chopping the vegetables. I like a chunky salsa so I made my vegetables a bit bigger when I chopped them.

    Something that has saved me a lot of time when cooking for my family has been to learn how to properly chop, dice, slice, and prep different items. A nice resource to use for this can be found here!

    For this recipe, if you don't have fresh corn (or just want to save time), canned or frozen corn will work too.

    Recipe: Fresh Corn Salsa

    I heated the corn on the skillet (you also could char it on the grill if you wanted) and then after it cooled, combined it with the other ingredients to make the salsa.

    Sydney Martin

    Soon the beef was done β€” and I dropped it into my stand mixer to quickly shred it.

    Sydney Martin

    This is one of my favorite time-saving kitchen hacks because I don't have the time or energy to pull it all apart with two forks. Sorry!

    Then it was time to put everything together. This was *really* good β€” and it made enough for leftovers later in the week.

    Burrito bowls plated with corn salsa
    Sydney Martin

    On Tuesday, breakfast and lunch were leftovers. It was cold and rainy all day, so it was the perfect opportunity to keep my toddler busy at home β€” *and* make a sweet treat to enjoy for the week.

    Enter: Classic chocolate chip cookies! I've made this recipe before and it's now one of my go-to's.

    Ingredients for chocolate chip cookies
    Sydney Martin

    Baking with my toddler can sometimes be a challenge. She doesn't like to wait to start taste-testing anything, so I find it easier to give her a job that also lets her have a little treat.

    The author's daughter inspecting chocolate chips
    Sydney Martin

    Hello, quality control! Each chocolate chip was inspected to ensure only the best chips made it into these cookies.

    These cookies always end up being a perfect combination, IMO. The inside always stays soft, but the outside has a bit of crunch.

    Chocolate chip cookies plated
    Sydney Martin

    Tuesday's dinner: sloppy Joes!

    Ingredients for sloppy joes
    Sydney Martin

    Growing up, sloppy Joes were always something I loved at other people's houses! At my house, my dad made the WORST sloppy Joes. πŸ˜‚They were bland and grey. They were sadness in your mouth. To be clear, these are NOT those.

    These turned out great. I kept it super simple and served them with chips. My only regret was not checking my fridge prior to my grocery delivery, because it was too late when I discovered we were out of pickles.

    Sloppy Joes plated with potato chips
    Sydney Martin

    Breakfast was the last of the pancakes, and lunch was leftover sloppy Joes. For Wednesday's dinner, I went back to one of my favorite cookbooks and its recipe for Greek chicken pilaf bowls.

    Ingredients for Greek chicken bowls
    Sydney Martin

    These are from my copy of the Skinnytaste Meal Prep cookbook (found on Amazon for $17.99) β€” but you can find a pretty similar version of the recipe on their website too.

    (And BTW, I really recommend this cookbook. The recipes are easy to prepare, filled with whole foods, and always taste great.)

    The recipe was simple and convenient β€” everything cooked on the sheet pan, and I made a pot of the rice at the same time.

    Green chicken bowl ingredients laid out on a sheet pan, ready to roast
    Sydney Martin

    Here was everything all together β€” topped with some feta and lemon for extra flavor:

    Greek chicken bowls plated
    Sydney Martin

    Breakfast was pick-your-favorites from the pantry, and lunch was leftover Greek bowls. Thursday dinner was taco night! If my 6-year-old got to pick dinner everyday, we would have a rotation between three things: burgers, pizza, and tacos. I used this recipe for shredded chicken tacos get in one of those requests.

    Ingredients for chicken tacos

    This recipe tells you to cook the chicken on the stovetop, but I used my Instant Pot instead to save time and effort.

    Chicken cooked in an Instant Pot
    Sydney Martin

    Once the meat was cooked, I shredded it β€” and everyone built their own tacos.

    Chicken tacos plated
    Sydney Martin

    Friday was pantry favorites for breakfast, and (you guessed it) leftovers for lunch. For dinner, my husband and I went out for a date night β€” and the kids got to order pizza.

    The author's kids at home; the author and her husband on a date
    Sydney Martin


    Breakfast was eggs, bacon, and toast β€” and lunch was leftovers. Dinner was looped into the following week's shopping plan. And then the process started over again! πŸ›’

    When you're in the thick of it, trying to shop, prep, and cook meals everyday can be daunting. However, with a set plan and a little preparation β€” plus favorite reliable recipes that you gather over time β€” you can really simplify things to help yourself out.

    The author and her baby daughter
    Sydney Martin

    As an added disclaimer, feeding kids is hard. They are picky and always changing what they like. As usual, my kids thought everything was gross, even if they secretly liked it. πŸ˜‰

    What does shopping and cooking look like in your household each week? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!