Real Food on a Budget: A Week of Eating From The Pantry

by lydia on December 8, 2013

Are you someone who is trying to buy healthy real food items for your family while on a budget? Perhaps you are one of those people who say it’s too expensive to eat real food, including grass fed meats and raw milk. Either way, I’m here to share a series of posts with you to show you how I manage to feed my family of 5 healthy, gluten-free food on a budget all year long.


I posted early this week that my family would be eating from the pantry this week, no grocery shopping for us until Friday. The last time I went shopping was just before Thanksgiving. The last time I was able to get milk and eggs was Friday, November 22nd. We have already been eating out of the pantry. In this post I share the past 6 days Monday- Saturday as a way to share ideas for others trying to eat healthfully, yet frugally. Thankfully, it was not a major challenge for us due to the fact that I’ve tried very hard to keep a stocked pantry and freezer full of meats and veggies. My situation will not reflect what will work for anyone else. It is also not ‘perfect’ or ‘ideal’ in some cases. It is simply what I was able to make happen for my family. I hope it will be helpful information, as well as inspire.




Pumpkin Poppers (aka Donut Holes)


Pumpkin Poppers for the younger 3 boys breakfast and herbal ‘shots’.

A Mango Smoothie for my oldest – 1 cup frozen mangoes 1 1/2 cups raw milk, 1 scoop of greens powder, 3 colostrum capsules opened up and dumped in, 1 Tbsp. cold soluble Great Lakes gelatin

My breakfast was some beef jerky and  2 cups decaf coffee with grass fed cream, raw butter and honey.


Kid #1 Lunch: School Cafeteria (FREE) My oldest gets lunch at the school cafeteria (we qualify for the free lunch). I know it’s not real food, but it’s what he is willing to eat and it works for us. Better than wasting time and energy on a lunch he’ll fight me on taking to school.

Kid #2 Lunch: a thermos of chili, an organic cornbread muffin and apple

Kid #3 Lunch: slices of raw cheese, applesauce, an organic corn bread muffin and carrot and red pepper sticks

Kid #4 Lunch: a thermos of chili, an organic cornbread muffin and small container of homemade applesauce

My Lunch: I had smoked salmon in lettuce wraps with a bit of guacamole, fermented kohlrabi slaw and the last two chipotle sea snax crushed up on top. Along with a glass of kombucha. ( I realize smoked salmon is not uber budget friendly, however I did have it on hand this week).


I made an awesome Ginger-Lime Chicken Stir Fry. I used up some chicken thigh meat I had in the freezer, along with a bag of frozen stir fry veggies along with some rice noodles. I seasoned it with sesame oil, lime juice, grated fresh ginger and added a jalapeno to the veggies. Topped with some cilantro I had left in the fridge. I served this with my Garlic Kohlrabi Pickles. Yum! We ate it all -so no leftovers! This meal was under $10 for 5 people.

Food Prep For the Day:

  • Make a batch of apple cider kefir for sourdough starter
  • finished up some beef bone broth, put into quart containers to freeze (2 gallons worth)
  • Whip up a batch of Vitamin C Gummies for the younger two boys
  • Make a batch of pumpkin custard for kid #4’s lunches for the rest of the week.






Another smoothie and some crispy bacon ends for my 15 year old.

The younger 3 boys had more Pumpkin Poppers and crispy bacon ends, along with their herb ‘shots’.


Kid #1: School Cafeteria (FREE)

Kid #2: Turkey bologna in a lettuce wrap with mustard. Sliced carrots with small container of guacamole. 1 pear and a thermos of herbal ‘kool-aid’.

Kid #3: Turkey bologna in a lettuce wrap with mustard. Small container of homemade applesauce. Thermos of rice cooked in bone broth with tallow and coconut aminos. Thermos of herbal ‘kool-aid’.

Kid #4:Small container of homemade applesauce. Small container of pumpkin custard.  A thermos of rice cooked in beef bone broth with leftover pulled short ribs, tallow and a little bit of coconut aminos. Thermos of herbal ‘kool-aid’.

My Lunch: I had  the last of my smoked salmon in lettuce wraps with the last of the guacamole, some fermented kohlrabi slaw, chopped scallion and 3 pieces of homemade coconut oil chocolate with a glass of my Cranberry Nettles Tea.


Old Fashioned Beef Stew in the crockpot -with the last of the potatoes, carrots and onions, some frozen green peas, beef stock, salt pepper and thyme. That’s it! Cook on high 1 hour -low for 7 hours. Boom, done – easy peasy! I also served my gluten free Yorkshire Puddings alongside (you can find the recipe in my eBook -HERE). And I required the boys eat a small amount of a fermented veggie of their choice. I had sauerkraut -they all chose my garlic kohlrabi pickles again. (Cost for this dinner was about $16 with about 2 quarts of leftover beef stew)

Food Prep For the Day:






Smoothie for my oldest (switched up the ingredients just a bit). A batch of my Yorkshire Puddings for the other 3 boys and their vitamin ‘shots’. I had leftover Beef Stew, just the meat, peas and onions and a small ramekin of Paleo Pumpkin Custard. 2 cups of mostly decaf coffee with grassfed cream,raw butter and raw honey.


Kid #1: School Cafeteria Lunch

Kid #2: School Cafeteria Lunch (he did NOT want what I had to offer for lunch, so instead of sending it and wasting it, I conceded and allowed him to order from the school cafeteria).

Kid #3: Thermos of beef stew, 1 Yorkshire pudding, 3 GF Thumbprint cookies

Kid #4: Thermos of beef stew, 1 Yorkshire pudding, 3 GF Thumbprint cookies and a container of Paleo Pumpkin Custard

My Lunch:

Small serving of Easy Beef Stir Fry, glass of cranberry nettles tea and 3 of my GF Thumbprint Cookies (oops, they were TOO good to resist).


Just my oldest and I for dinner – we had  my Easy Beef Stir Fry (recipe coming soon)  and LF kohlrabi slaw, and the leftover rice from Tuesday. (cost for this dinner was about $9)

Food Prep For the Day:

  • Start a new batch of echinacea tincture.






Gluten-Free Sourdough Pancakes with cultured butter, maple syrup and about 1/2 pound of crispy bacon ends. Elderberry Tea and Vitamin C shots all around. My oldest also had about 2 cups of leftover smoothie.



Kid #1: School Cafeteria

Kid #2: Homemade Alphabet Soup, Kohlrabi Pickles & 4 large Vitamin C gummies, thermos of herbal tea

Kid #3: Homemade Alphabet Soup, Kohlrabi Pickles & 4 large Vitamin C gummies, thermos of herbal tea

Kid #4: Homemade Alphabet Soup, Kohlrabi Pickles & 4 large Vitamin C gummies, container of Paleo Pumpkin Custard, thermos of herbal tea

My Lunch:

I found a quart of Chicken & Wild Rice soup and ate the whole thing! 2 squares of Dark Salted Chocolate.


Salmon Cakes, mixed veggies and LF curried kohlrabi, pickled carrots and 3 kids had small mugs of my Homemade Alphabet Soup. (Cost for this dinner was probably about $12 and there were leftovers)

Food Prep For the Day:

  • Make a gallon of Honeybush Tea
  • Prep sweet potatoes -cut into slices and ferment overnight to make sweet potato chips for breakfast
  • Thaw 1 pound ground beef






Mini Beef burgers and sweet potato chips. Elderberry Tea and vitamin C shots.

I had leftover salmon cakes with some kohlrabi slaw and the last of my decaf coffee.


Kid #1: School Cafeteria

Kid #2: School Cafeteria

Kid #3:Leftover pancakes, Alphabet soup, kohlrabi pickles, homemade gummies

Kid #4: Leftover pancakes, Alphabet soup, kohlrabi pickles, homemade gummies

My Lunch: Leftover Beef Stew. Water


Leftovers, scrambled eggs, milk and homemade chocolate bark. (random, I know -cost was under $4)

Food Prep For the Day:

  • Small food shop trip to get produce and coffee, and picked up some bacon at Trader Joe’s for Saturday’s breakfast
  • Juice Meyer lemons and freeze (I had bought a bunch before Thanksgiving with the intention of making preserved lemons, but never got around to it, oops).

Milk Coop Drop Off:

I host a Raw Milk Cooperative out of my home and Friday is pick up day (read all about it here).  I got 2 gallons of raw milk, 1 dozen eggs, and 2 quarts of raw cream, and ended up with a block of cheese that was extra.






Oven Baked Bacon, Sourdough Pancakes and 1/2 grapefruit per kid. I was able to enjoy my organic decaf coffee with raw cream, raw butter and raw honey and I also skipped the pancakes and had one scrambled duck egg instead (the last of my last dozen of duck eggs until the spring, sniff, sniff).


Just me for lunch, I had the last of the salmon cakes, topped with sour cream and some of my kolhrabi slaw.


Was just me again – I ate random leftovers and drank ginger tea!


Food Prep For the Day:


My Food Budget



My current food budget is around $600 per month give or take. In the past I’ve tried to eat real food on a $400 per month budget. Though I’ve also had months when I can spend $800-$1000 per month. Either that or, due to being a real food blogger I earn gift certificates from a couple sources and am able to add to our food supply with them. I realize my individual situation will not be the same as anyone else, and I’m not here to give out exact meal plans to fall within any exact budget. I think it would be nigh impossible as food costs vary all over the country. Rather, my sharing our week of eating from the pantry is meant for inspiration, ideas and general information, such as linking up the recipes I use.

Since my income fluctuates greatly, I have to plan well in the times when I do have a bit more money. This way in the times the belt gets tightened, so to speak, it’s not impossible to do. I’ll be honest and say, that eating on a budget is HARD WORK. I literally had to plan, scheme and spend more time than usual thinking about how to maximize what we had on hand. I also had to deal with a minor amount of complaining, and frustration due to not having enough quick and easy snacks on hand for my hungry kiddos.

This coming week I plan to plan ahead even more. This means a two-hour cooking block on the weekend to ensure I have easier breakfasts and snacks for the kids lunches. I found it very difficult to make both breakfast in the morning and pack a healthy lunch for 3 kids. One thing I also find challenging is having enough fresh fruit on hand for 4 boys. I like for them to eat at least one piece per day. As you can see I was only able to get fruit into them 2 out of 6 days. This is something I’m hoping to work on in the coming week. So stay tuned to see how we do to stay in our monthly budget of $600.

If you enjoyed this post and found it helpful, please comment below. I want to hear from you if this series is beneficial to you in some small way. What other types of posts would you like to see related to real food on a budget? Share below…….


More Real Food on a Budget Posts


Here is a basic post of ways to build a whole food kitchen on a budget – just in case you have not read these tips yet on your on real food on a budget journey.

10 Grain Free Dinners on a Budget from Holistic Squid.

Wholesome Mommy is running a 6 month challenge of eating real food on a Food Stamp Budget of just $400 per month. She is including a meal plan for each month as well. The meal plan she includes is NOT gluten free, and very carb heavy. However, it could be a good source of ideas and inspiration if your budget is SUPER tight. I remember when I had a $400 per month budget, it was very difficult and we ended up eating a lot more starch that I am normally comfortable with to stretch the budget. Regardless, head on over and take a peek -it may inspire you in some small way.

Have you learned to work within a budget and still manage to consume healthy real food year round? I want to hear from you. What tips and tricks have you learned along the way? Please share in the comments.

Want more soup recipes? Winter Soups, a downloadable recipe eBook, is a collection of 52 nourishing soups from your favorite real food bloggers. Click on the banner below to learn more about ‘Winter Soups‘.




  Subscribe to Divine Health
  From The Inside Out

We hate spam more than you do,
and we don't do it.

Join our weekly newsletter and get
our 52 Healthy Habits to Take Care
of Your Body FREE!



jen December 8, 2013 at 7:03 pm

I love these type of posts. I think it is very interesting to see what is working for others. I plan on trying several of the recipes you have liked.

Debra E December 9, 2013 at 9:18 am

I agree with Jen…love these type of posts and it’s great inspiration.

Starlene @ GAPS Diet Journey December 9, 2013 at 10:46 pm

Just reading about making all those breakfasts made me feel tired, lol. You really have to be up early in the morning to stay on top of feeding all those boys! I loved reading how your menu went. Thanks for sharing!

lydia December 10, 2013 at 8:21 am

Yeah, it’s a lot of work Starlene. Glad you enjoyed reading!

Jamie January 3, 2014 at 11:48 am

I just found your blog and I really liked this post. I will be on your blog a lot over the next few days seeing how you do this real food thing for your family and seeing what I can incorporate for my family.

lydia January 16, 2014 at 12:54 pm

Thanks Jamie -glad you enjoyed the post!

April January 15, 2014 at 7:37 pm

I really love these posts , it is so nice to see an example of how to eat healthy and try to keep it affordable. I hope you do more of them.

lydia January 16, 2014 at 12:54 pm

I’m glad to hear that April -thanks for letting me know! I hope to do more posts like this when time allows….

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: