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Dine Without Whine - A Family 

Friendly Weekly Menu Plan
Family Feasts on $75 a Week--You Can Do It!
A few weeks ago Mary Ostyn joined us! Mary is the mom of a busy family of 10, and she's written a number of books on how to juggle that many kids and still have an awesome family life.

One of the things that I'm always amazed at in our Twitter conversations with all the friends I have is how many of you moms out there are so frugal! You know where to get the best deals, and you know how to stretch a dollar. So you're going to really appreciate this interview today. So let's get started.

Grocery Store AisleImage by Jeff Keen via Flickr

Mary, you’ve written a book that many of my readers will just drool over, called Family Feasts for $75 a Week. Are you serious? Can you feed that many that cheaply without resorting to all lentils and dried beans?

The $75 a week quoted in my book is for a family of 4. With 10+ people to feed, I spend more like $200 a week. But most of them eat like adults—I don’t think many people could feed the numbers I do for that amount. And we eat really well—lots of good tasting food, lots of variety. I could get by on a little less if we needed to—in fact, one month every year I challenge myself to spend as little as possible. Last year I fed our whole family for a month for $350. But it would be hard to feed that many people every month for that cost, and I don’t think our diet would be as varied

I think if more people realized that if you plan your meals and plan your shopping, you could live for so much less, there would be less of a need for two incomes. Do you think that groceries is one of the main ways that people throw money away?

Absolutely. If your budget is tight, look at your grocery spending first. I wrote my book to help the ‘average’ family waste less money. But I’ve had confirmed tightwads tell me they learned new tricks from my book. I think that just goes to show that most of us could be spending less, whether we realize it or not

I have to admit, Mary, that I have expensive tastes. I like salmon, but it ain’t cheap. What do you do with foods that you just can’t afford? Do you ever treat yourself?

I love salmon too, and I splurge once a month or so. (It’s generally cheapest in the freezer case, by the way!) The trick is to balance your splurges with affordable meals. For every splurge meal I serve 2-3 vegetarian or almost-vegetarian meals. For example, potato corn chowder and pasta carbonera can both be made with a dollar’s worth of bacon, and yet the flavours are very rich and satisfying.

Another trick is to incorporate a flavor you love in a more affordable form. We eat steak maybe 4 or 5 times a year – it’s just too expensive to be a regular at our house. But I make a wonderful steak fajita with caramelized onions and bell peppers, served in flour tortillas with salsa and sour cream. That meal offers the flavour of steak for half the cost

Restaurants are so expensive, especially with large families, but it’s hard to cook all the time. Do you have a plan so that on those nights when you just want a treat or a break, you can get one inexpensively? Do you make up frozen meals for that purpose, or do you have another trick up your sleeve?

I love to cook, but I have days where I’m burned out too. At least once a week I make a pot of soup big enough to last two meals. Once a week I also double a casserole recipe, and stick the second one in the freezer. I try to have 2-3 casseroles in the freezer all the time, for variety.The crock pot can be a time saver on a busy day. And almost every meal, I make 2 or 3 servings extra. Then a couple times a week I serve ‘pot-luck’ for lunch. I pull all the leftovers out of the fridge and let kids pick what they want to zap in the microwave. Like you mentioned, planning really is at the heart of keeping the grocery budget in check.

You have a daughter who is married now. Is she frugal, too?

I think so. Once before she and her husband were married, they went to the store for candy. They opted for the bulk food bins and their entire purchase totalled 37 cents. I laughed when they told me that story. Of course that they’re buying more than candy they’re spending more. But they’re doing a great job being careful with their money. Last summer Amanda canned fruit and made jam. And she’s always trying out new recipes, expanding her repertoire. I think that’s a big key to being content with eating at home: mix it up, keep it interesting, both for the cook and for the rest of the family.

Image of Mary Ostyn from FacebookImage of Mary Ostyn

I know you'll love this book! I'm excited to get my hands on it, and Mary has generously offered one as a prize to a commenter! So leave a comment, and in one week, on April 12, we'll draw for a winner!

While you're busy leaving a comment, though, why not leave us your favourite frugal grocery tip, too? I have a couple that I'll leave for you:

1. Don't buy cereal. It's horrendously expensive. Make up your own pancake mix, or choose smoothies for breakfast instead.

2. Make lots of soups. They last a long time, and you can use leftover meats to fill them out. They're cheap and filling! We often do a potato-leek soup with homemade buns and salad as a vegetarian meal.

Now, what are yours? And good luck on the contest!

UPDATE: Do read the comments! Great tips there! Here's a really good one from Charline, that I try to emulate, too:

I cook something big and prepare extra potatoes, then I stretch it as long as I can by using everything up in very simple recipes. For example: Roasted chicken with sides of potatoes and carrots on the first night; using the liquid, some leftover chicken (with fresh potatoes), I can make a soup; using half of the leftover potatoes (with cream corn and hamburg), I have sheppard's pie; using the second half of the potatoes with leftover chicken and carrots, fried together in a pan with salt and pepper, I have what we call hash; and then with whatever chicken that's left, we can make sandwiches. So, with only a few extra ingredients, a very large meal can make an additional 4 to 5 meals.

Now read the comments, and remember to leave one if you want to win!


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At 7:56 AM , Blogger Mama Said said…

The most effective way for me to save money is to meal plan. If I don't go to the grocery store with a list tailored to my plan I can spend a fortune! With a plan, planned around in season produce, I save a lot of money!


At 8:19 AM , Blogger jack said…

Hi! This is Sherri, Jack's mom. I would love to save money at the grocery store. I spend too much money on cereal. Feasting on $75 a week sounds great!


At 8:25 AM , Blogger Terry @ Breathing Grace said…

Okay, I'll be honest and admit that I already have Mary's book. I am commenting hoping to win it and send to a friend whose budget is super tight. Mine is super tight right now, too, which is why I didn't buy her a copy, and why I need the one I have so desperately.

My frugal grocery tips:

1)Pasta at least once a week is a hearty and cheap meal that can be made a variety of ways.

2)Make your own pizza! They're healthier that way and you can customize them to suit your family's individual tastes. Especially if you make mini pizzas.


At 8:28 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

Terry: So I take it you like the book if you want to send it to someone else? :). That's great! We love mini pizzas, too. We do them with English muffins, and it's a great lunch after church when you have a whole ton of teens over!


At 8:29 AM , Blogger Deborah said…

My biggest saver also is meal planning. But I'm still thinking that we spend way more than we need to each week on food, and I'd love some tips on how to cut back the cost while increasing the variety and healthiness of the foods I serve. I already don't do much pre-packaged food, although cereal is a weakness of mine.


At 8:36 AM , Blogger sherri said…

SOunds like a book I would love!


At 8:41 AM , Blogger Laura said…

Making a meal plan and grocery list saves me tons. My rule is if it's not on the list then don't buy it. Saves me from all those impulse buys.


At 8:45 AM , Blogger Sara said…

I usually do a pretty good job of feeding out family of six on a budget, but I would love some new tips and recipes.

We have Cereal Sunday in our house. We "treat" the kids to cereal for Sunday night's dinner which is especially nice after getting home late after the evening service. For breakfast though, I usually make muffins or different fruit breads.


At 8:51 AM , Anonymous Charline said…

My best tip: I cook something big and prepare extra potatoes, then I stretch it as long as I can by using everything up in very simple recipes. For example: Roasted chicken with sides of potatoes and carrots on the first night; using the liquid, some leftover chicken (with fresh potatoes), I can make a soup; using half of the leftover potatoes (with cream corn and hamburg), I have sheppard's pie; using the second half of the potatoes with leftover chicken and carrots, fried together in a pan with salt and pepper, I have what we call hash; and then with whatever chicken that's left, we can make sandwiches. So, with only a few extra ingredients, a very large meal can make an additional 4 to 5 meals.


At 9:00 AM , Blogger Heather said…

I usually just buy what I really like and then I know I'll eat it. If you aren't sure you really like it, and its still on sale, don't waste your money cuz you probably won't eat it.


At 9:02 AM , Blogger Belinda said…

I would love this book. My biggest money saver at the store is to leave my hubby at home.


At 9:06 AM , Blogger Nancy said…

I believe that I save money if I plan my menus before shopping. I avoid pre-packaged meals. I must admit that we spend way too much on cereal in this house.


At 9:22 AM , Blogger Ev said…

This looks really interesting.. with three teenagers we can use all the help we can get..Cereal is a big thing in our house and i always try to only buy it on sale


At 9:44 AM , Blogger Llama Momma said…

Know what your price point is. Mind is $1.29 for chicken. When it hits that price, I stock way up.

And cereal? I never pay more than a dollar a box. (Good sales + coupons.) My boys eat cereal for a snack. I keep a pile of 20+ boxes in our basement pantry. :-)


At 9:50 AM , Blogger Bobble said…

This sounds like a great book.

One way of saving money is to clip coupons and use them only when the item is on sale; I have gotten yogurt for free this way once.

Another way is to shop early in the morning when the stores reduce prices on items that have almost reached their "best before" dates by as much as 50%. These things are still very good and can often be frozen to use later.


At 10:01 AM , Anonymous myfathersdaughter said…

I wish I had the TIME to think ahead this much and plan everything out! My husband does most of the cooking around here and he does search through the recipe magazines and we try to shop according to whatever list he draws up to plan better- shopping at Costco to get meats at good prices then breaking up the bulk and freezing them has helped save some money- I tried bulk cooking for awhile but wasn't thrilled with the quality of some of the things that I made after I froze and reheated- cooking is just not my thing! but I love to save money and can use all of the help I can get!


At 10:33 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I'm not sure I have a frugal tip right now, though I have tried to live a frugal married life. I haven't been that frugal as of late, so this book would be such a blessing to win. :)



At 10:59 AM , Blogger Teri Lynne Underwood said…

I'd love this book! Our goal is $300 a month on food - including eating out! So I imagine I could learn some great new tips. The best lesson I have learned so far is to plan my menu from what I have on hand ... then I am shopping for the best sale items, not for what we'll eat this week. I don't know if that made sense ... but I hope it does. Basically, I plan my menu from what's in our pantry and freezer. Then when I make my grocery list, I am able to use the sale papers & coupons to stock up rather than buy for the week.


At 11:17 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

This is something I could use.. we get food stamps that must be stretched for a whole month and still have enough at the end of it.... I would love more frugal ways to feed my family of 5... our kids are ages 6, 5 and 3.I spend $100 a week but still end up needing a few things during the week.
Though I do meal plan and do a list..
All we have is Shaws (yuck) and SuperWalmart (40 min away).
Also with my husband being diabeteic and now really having to watch carbs/calories...
Any new ideas and tips would be VERY helpful right now.


At 11:32 AM , Blogger Stacey said…

Here is where you find the most diversity... between Canada and the US. For example, a previous commenter said something about buying cereal for $1. I know for sure that she has to be American, because cereal never gets that cheap in Canada. I'm curious to know if the author lives in the US or Canada. I try to spend less than $80 per week for a family of 4. It is incredibly hard. My guess is she's American :)


At 1:35 PM , Blogger Berji's domain said…

I would love to win this book. Our family grew from 3 people to 5 in 4 months! I meal plan and shop double-ad Wednesdays to get the best deals in the stores. I also just don't buy much in the way of prepackaged things. Cooking from scratch is healthier and tastier and usually cheaper.


At 1:50 PM , Blogger Tonia said…

This book sounds great. My best money saving tip is to cook in large batches when items are on sale. For instance when whole chickens are on sale I buy a bunch. I freeze some but I cook 2-3 at a time. I use some for that weeks meal plan and freeze some cooked chicken for future use. It's saves me time and money to have frozen, cooked meats in my freezer.


At 2:43 PM , Blogger The Happy Domestic said…

It's true, food is cheaper in the States than in Canada. It is possible, however to feed a family of 6 on $100 a week - Canadian. I do it regularly. About once every couple of months, however, I have to spend an extra $50 or so to restock some pantry staples, spices, etc.

Some of the best ways to save money is to spend time - do it from scratch! When both spouses work it's extrememly difficult to do this, but I have found that between the costs of childcare and convenience foods, it's more than worth having one partner stay home.


At 3:05 PM , Anonymous Jennifer said…

I try to make as much as I canf rom scratch, and from ingredients I already have. Hubbie likes to take granola bars for lunch, so I make them with peanut butter and whatever else I have on hand. saves big bucks when you compare the cost of the processed packaged ones!

We will be going to a one income household shortly, and any tips I can get on saving money would really help.


At 3:56 PM , Blogger Nurse Bee said…

I shop at the discount grocery store (you bag your own groceries) and I only buy bread and bagels when they're on sale....but when they're on sale I buy enough to last the month and I stick them in the freezer.


At 6:09 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I make my own cleaners, shampoo, deodorant, granola, chicken broth..... I am a big fan and would LOVE the book!!!!!!!


At 7:35 PM , Anonymous Deanna said…

I'd love to have this book!
My money saving tips are to:
Menu plan (using sales and what you have in the house)
Cook from scratch as much as possible (including buying dry beans)
Don't have a piece of meat on an entree except for special occassion
But do eat healthfully - don't love on boxed mac and cheese and hamburger helper just to save money. Being healthy will save you money in the long run.
dmfitzpatrick16 @


At 8:46 PM , Blogger Megan said…

Would love to have this book on my shelf! Having lived on a two-grad-student income for the past five years, I already have some practice at frugal feasting (we budget and spend $250/month on food for a family of a family of four as of a week ago!), but new tips are always appreciated. My tip, besides meal planning which is the most important way to save, is to take a day or even a weekend and organize your recipes. I did this during my first pregnancy and condensed all of my cookbooks down to one binder of recipes I actually use on a regular basis, organized exactly how I wanted it. Now when I do our budget once a month I just pull out the binder and grab the recipe cards that I want to use and, voila, my menu and shopping list are done! When I upgrade to a smartphone this fall I'm going to get an app that does something similar -- can't wait! :)


At 9:42 PM , Anonymous Kristine McGuire said…

What a great interview! The cookbook looks awesome. In these lean times it's always nice to have tips on how to make the most of your money. I have found shopping at Aldi's for staple items and cooking ahead can be very useful. I also shop at our Farmer's Market in the Summer which allows me to support our local economy and buy more fruit and veggies for less.


At 9:49 PM , Blogger Not your average mom of 4 said…

I am new to this blog, but let me tell you now that I am in love :). This cookbook looks amazing. I am a young mom *24* of four children and I know it gets expensive. The best way for us to save money is in things like speghetti I use just a little bit of hamburger and thicken up the sauce by adding veggies such as mushroom, onions, and green pepper. It is healthier plus it spreads out the sauce for us. :) We also use leftovers as much as possible.


At 10:01 PM , Blogger Tiffany said…

This looks like an amazing book! I would love to have it. We have really been trying to stick to a budget lately, but have been failing to stay within our grocery budget. I am trying to start couponing, but with a toddler in the house, I have been having a hard time finding time to do it. I have found that I am able to get many things cheaper by using coupons and shopping the sales! I also frequent the local bread outlets to get my breads much cheaper. I am hoping to learn how to make my own bread soon, but until then, this has saved a lot of money for us.


At 12:49 AM , Blogger Lissa said…

The only tip I have is that eggs can be cooked and used in alot of different ways and they are cheap and a source of protein


At 1:07 AM , Blogger Meg said…

My tip would be to buy whole chickens on sale and carve them yourself. You get two breasts, two thigh fillets, two drumsticks, two wings and the meat in the bones that is great for soup and stock. I really does work out much cheaper and it only takes 5 minutes once you get used to doing it.


At 11:50 AM , Anonymous Kathryn Lang said…

I use to do the "planned over" program where I would make a little extra of something that could be remade into a new dish. But I have a house full of boys and as they have grown the leftovers have shrunk! :D

I definitely like the idea of switching things up - keeping meals interesting will help to keep the pantry used up and also give you the opportunity to take advantage of sales, discounts and seasonal produce.

My best tip - use cash when shopping - you will be more likely to keep up with what you are spending if you know that you have a limited amount to spend (leave your credit and debit cards at home so you are not tempted).


At 11:54 AM , Blogger dianne - bunny trails said…

I have my grocery list created in the same order of the aisles at the store. There's space in each category to write in a few items, but the things we buy regularly are already printed on the list, so they can be highlighted as needed. I print 5-8 and have them on a clipboard with a pen and highlighter nearby.

Since my list corresponds to the aisles, I can remain very focused and just zip down an aisle and pick up the one or two things I need, without dawdling or paying attention to other products and sales. If there's an aisle in which I need nothing, I skip it altogether. I can leave my house, go shopping, and be home in under an hour this way, having purchased just the items we needed.


At 10:54 PM , Blogger Susie said…

I would love this book. We are recently re accessing how we spend our grocery budget so this would be very useful.

Our Tip: Instead of buying pre-packaged snacks (ie: cookies, granola bars, ect. AND juice boxes) we make our own. It saves a ton of money and is a great activity for this kids. PLUS, if it takes you having to make it... you may make it less and reach for veggies instead (which we usually have pre-cut in a container in our fridge ready to go).

Thanks for all the great tips.


At 1:46 PM , Blogger Herding Grasshoppers said…

Oooo! I'd love the book!

My tip: If you have the freezer space, stock up on turkeys around Thanksgiving. Our local grocery store has a $20 deal - a turkey up to 20 lbs and a bag of "fixings" (stuffing, cranberry, potatoes, etc.)

We eat turkey all year. We'll have turkey dinner one day, leftovers the next, and I use the leftover meat in recipes that call for chicken - turkey enchiladas, turkey and rice, and our favorite - turkey pot pies, which freeze well.



At 12:16 PM , Blogger Ann-Marie said…

I would love to have this book. I have been trying to save by making our own bread, making different soups (it's inexpensive and it gives the kids something new to try), eating out of the fridge/freezer and pantry before I grocery shop, growing vegetables etc :)


At 12:19 PM , Blogger Sheri said…

I have been eying this book. I would love to win a copy.

My biggest money saver is making my own homemade pizza. We have a traditional Friday Pizza and movie night. Ordering pizza every Friday gets way too expensive. So I make my own!


At 12:40 PM , Blogger Damkid17 said…

We are fortunate to have a fundraiser for our Christian schools, that allows us to purchase vouchers for different groceries stores. ( The school buys them at a discount and sells at full price to us, the money made is then donated to the school!). We purchase 400.00 per month, roughly 100 per week for spending...It helps maintain our budget knowing you only have this 100.00 card! And it helps our school!


At 12:41 PM , Blogger Damkid17 said…

and we do meal plan as well...checking out flyers for the sales and cooking appropriately!


At 8:22 AM , Blogger Lorrie said…

I do a meal plan chart. The chart lists where everyone has to be for that week. It starts on Monday and I plan based on "busyness". Since we have our own beef and pork and I freeze vegetables and fruit and do alot of canning, the grocery list is short. The chart also indicates who is kitchen helper for that evening - that includes preparing supper and cleaning up.


At 4:33 PM , Anonymous Jennifer said…

There are a lot of good ideas here in the comments, a lot of which I use too. I stock up on turkeys at Thanksgiving, buy whole chickens, make my own tortillas (which are easy once you try it), shop early in the day to take advantage of markdowns on perishables, etc. I also try to plant a garden every year.

I'd love to try other money saving ideas though. My sons are only toddlers, but I've had a glimpse of how it's going to be when they are teenagers- I need to start saving money now!!


At 2:02 PM , Blogger Kimber said…

I have an empty nest now, and things are very tight! I could really use ideas to save now that I live in the city with no freezer space!!
Lots of incredibly good ideas here, I am happy to share my own.
I raised five, hubby works and I stayed home due to a medical condition.

Our biggest savings was to find where others wasted, and ask to benefit.
A local pizza parlour throws away roughly fifty pounds of pizza dough on a Saturday night, before they close for two days. I asked for as much as I could handle to take home. Simple. Free. My children LOVED it. We made pizza, pizza pockets, any type of bread product you can imagine...filled it with cinnamon/apple/jam/cheese.

We also took our leftovers on Thursdays out of the fridge after the weekend and made the children's favourite soup, "garbage soup"...basically some broth and bulk noodles and add leftovers.
We grew the kids favourite veggies and canned what we could, froze and made wild berry jams as well.

A visit to the bulk bins made a great all around cereal/trail mix/snack, especially at sale time.

Coupons are also huge savings, because you can use manufacturers coupons and store coupons for the same item.

Never enough ways to save!!


At 4:52 PM , Anonymous ukhotdeals said…

Making a list is a great way to come under budget on your groceries. I honestly use on each and every week I go to the store. It really allows you to go sort out what coupons you need, and also what you're going to be making for dinner throughout the week, thus preventing any impromptu pizza ordering or overspending on things you don't need or things that will go bad because you don't eat them...

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Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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