Tuesday, April 23, 2019

What we eat and spend on food in a month - Week 1 of 4

The topic of feeding a large family can be a fascinating one. Some questions I often see asked:

- What type of foods do you make?
- How much food do you make?
- How much money does it cost?
- How much time do you spend in the kitchen?
- Do you menu plan and use grocery lists?

To answer these questions and give you a glimpse of what things look like "on average" for us, I am doing a 4-week mini-series documenting what we eat and spend over the course of one month, broken into four weekly posts.

As to the types of food we eat and the menu planning, I use my very own cookbook, Busy Family Menu Planning

Each week contains 5 breakfasts, 5 dinners, and 1 dessert. You can find out more about the cookbook here, and even sign up to get Week 1 free. 

I add to these weekly menus by incorporating one or two other breakfasts and dinners each week that are either a special meal for holidays and birthdays, a new recipe I'm trying, etc. I also add a list of "other" foods I am making each week, such as bread, kombucha, broth, etc. 

The last couple of weeks, we had done Weeks 4 and 6 from the cookbook. Due to our schedule, some meals got pushed back so I finished up the odds and ends left from those two weeks.

Here is what was on the menu this past week (Apr. 15-21):


Mon - Yogurt and granola parfaits
Tue - Breakfast Potato Skillet
Wed - Poached eggs on avocado toast, banana milk
Thu - Toast, breakfast sausages, eggs
Fri - Puff Oven Pancake with fresh berries
Sat - Chocolate Chip Orange Scones, Orange Julius
Sun - Marble Bundt Cake

(I cook double and serve the leftovers for lunch the following day)

Mon - Chicken Chili
Tue - Gyros
Wed - Sloppy Joes
Thu - Mac & Cheese
Fri - Steak Fajitas
Sat - Easter dinner (ham and the usual sides)
(we always serve it the night before b/c Sundays are too busy to cook or enjoy a large holiday meal)
Sun - Calzones


Butter Pecan ice cream
Pico de gallo
applesauce donuts
Banana boats (made by Anna)
Italian seasoning
hamburger buns

I also make a list of Weight Watchers friendly alternative breakfasts and dinners for myself, but will not include that list here as it's off topic and only applies to me.

Please note: That was what was on the menu. As it ended up, my two oldest boys ended up working late a couple of days last week and ate dinner out instead of at home, which made for extra leftovers (1 teen = 2 hungry adults), shifting some of last weeks menu items to the current week. We were also too busy on Saturday with church events to have the Easter dinner then, and pushed that back into the current week, so you will see those items again in the next post in this series. 

I try to do all of my shopping on weekday mornings, or better yet, online. I get one monthly delivery directly to my house from Azure Standard. I am a drop point for a local dairy which delivers to my house every Tuesday. I buy all of our beef from a local rancher that delivers every 4-6 months. Locally, I use Instacart to shop at Sprouts and Whole Foods. (The Instacart link will give you $10 off your first order if you are a new customer.)

That only leaves a few grocery stores I have to hit up in person: Costco (Instacart prices for Costco are higher than the store so I try to shop there in person to save money), Trader Joe's, Alpine Valley bakery outlet, and Superstition Ranch Farmers Market. Of these, I typically only go to Costco weekly, and get enough at the other stores to avoid going there but once every 2-4 weeks. 

Last week, with so many ingredients having shifted over from the previous two weeks, I already had a lot of ingredients in the house. For example, I didn't have to buy any meat last week because I already had plenty frozen on hand, as well as a large variety of produce, 6 dozen eggs, and many other staples. On the other hand, I bought extras for the Easter dinner, and ordered other foods that will last us longer than this week, such as the monthly Azure delivery.

Like I said in my previous blog post, we buy about 95% of our food organic, buying conventional only when an organic alternative is not available. This reflects in higher (though still very affordable) prices. 

Also, I am only including the cost of foods I purchased, not other things I got at the stores listed below. For instance, I bought Easter gifts for the kids and paper goods at Costco, as well as supplements, cleaning supplies, and other household goods at Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Azure. They are neither pictured nor included in the prices listed. 

I like to get to Costco 15 minutes before they open, so I can park my big van close to the store before things get crazy, and be in and out quickly. This also coincides with Peter's morning nap, so I can leave him home with my husband. I also leave the older kids home so they can do their school work, and only bring one big helper plus Stephen (6), Boaz (4) and Chloe (2). As much as possible, I try to stick to my list, and avoid any impulse purchases (a real temptation at Costco!). Having set meals and a prepared list helps me not to buy extras "just in case" I might need them or because I'm not sure if I'm low on a particular ingredient, since I know exactly what I actually need. 

Monday: Costco - total $119.82 

(3 lbs Greek yogurt, granola bars, crackers, tortilla chips, 5 lbs pears, 10 lbs tangerines, 10 lbs bananas, uncured deli chicken and ham, 4 lbs frozen cherries, 4 lbs strawberries, 1 lb blueberries, pineapple, seasoning mix, ciabatta rolls)

Monday: Whole Foods - $9.39

(1 lb uncured pepperoni. Isaac likes this for his lunches on days he's working.)

Monday (delivered): Sprouts - total $92.10 (including tip)

(granola for my husband, 4 dozen eggs, 4 Icelandic yogurts for myself, 1 gallon milk [I ran out last week and needed some for Mon night and Tue breakfast], 1 pint cream, marshmallows, 1 lb mini peanut butter chocolate cups [Anna needed these for her dessert], 1 lb tomatoes, 7 bell peppers, 1 lb kiwi, 6 lbs apples, 5 lbs potatoes, 2 lbs frozen corn, frozen pomegranate arils, garlic, 2 pints blackberries)

Tuesday (delivered): Dairy - 5 gallons milk, 2 quarts cream - $35

(The milk is normally $10/gallon, but I get the first 10 gallons each month at half-price, for $5 each, in return for being a local drop point where others can pick up their milk.)

Wednesday (delivered): Azure Standard - $186.77

(4.5 lbs mozzarella, 5 lbs corn masa, 2 lbs cream cheese, 15 lbs butter, 12 packs breakfast sausages, 5 lbs quick oats)

Wednesday: Trader Joe's - $123.37

(2 lbs corn, 1 lb salame, 3 lbs onions, 2 bottles Ranch dressing, 20 lbs Easter ham, 1 lb tomatoes, 1 box mushrooms, 10 lbs potatoes)

Friday: Sam's Club - $12.12

(3 lbs bananas, 2 lbs strawberries, 3 lbs kiwi - the kids eat a ton of fruit, so I typically buy a lot at the beginning of the week, and then add a little more fresh later in the week)

Total cost for week 1 of 4: $578.57

This is above my target budget of about $500/week, but weeks with holiday meals usually are (the hams alone were almost $100). Plus, like I said, I ended up shifting several of the meals over to the current week, including the big Easter dinner, so this weeks grocery bill will reflect that.

With that, I am feeding a total of 12 people: 2 adults (one pregnant), 3 teen boys (who each eat like two adults), and 7 kids (who eat like adults by the time they reach about age 8 or 10). So really not expensive considering I spend about $2.25 per person, per meal on average for eating mostly organic and all clean foods.

Thank you for reading, if you have come this far. Below are some pictures of the meals we had:

Chicken Chili

Poached Eggs on sourdough toast w/ avocado

 Cinnamon rolls, fruit pizza


Chocolate chip orange scones

Steak fajitas, Spanish rice, refried beans


  1. Everything looks so good, how much of this is in your cookbook? Sorry if I'm repeating by asking, I just started following you!!

    1. Pretty much everything is in the cookbook. The only things not included there are the cinnamon rolls, hamburger buns, ice cream recipes, and kombucha. I am just starting work on an einkorn baking book though, so those will be in there.

  2. Thank you for sharing.
    I enjoyed this read,

  3. I have seen your book but I needed a good look at your meal ideas. I love planning my meals but I feel like I’m stuck. After seeing this, I think that I’ll buy your book. If that’s ok with you.

  4. It's so kind of you to post this, Mrs. Anderson! I especially appreciated you letting us know that the weekly amounts do not include the cost of supplements, since that could make a big difference!

  5. This is so incredibly helpful, Zsuzsanna - THANK YOU!!! It is the sourcing that drives me nuts (i.e. where to buy each item), and this post gave me so many good ideas! I can't wait to read the rest of the series!!

    You are amazing, by the way. :)

  6. Oh my goodness! I just got my cookbook in the mail. I’ve looked it over cover to cover and can’t wait to try it out next week. The shopping lists are the BEST! The basics at the back are also fabulous. It’s been ages since I’ve made mayonnaise and am looking forward to making it again. Thank you for your time in putting this together. My family is going to enjoy this as well. We are a homeschool family and I have been cooking from scratch for decades. This is what I’ve been waiting for. The pages are guaranteed to be stained and well used...

  7. Do you have any advice for freezing meat? I would like to start buying in bulk from a local farm but I am worried the meat will get freezer burned.

  8. Zsuzsanna. Your family is an inspiration. You all are truely Blessed. We were just wondering if any of the food expenses were offset by growing anything, hunting, or chickens...anything of that nature.

  9. I discovered your blog from the hate going on at FJ. I am so glad I discovered your site! Those ladies sure are jealous of you! Thank you for your recipes, blog posts, and entertaining site!

  10. Hey! How much do you tip? I just started using the same service myself, and I am not sure how much I should tip. I usually buy around 80 dollars, give or take.


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