Feeding a Family of Four for Less Than $200 per Month

Grocery shopping for a family of four for less than $200 per month may seem like a dream to most, but I can assure you it can be done if you apply the right strategies.  And no, we don’t have to live like it’s 1920, living on bread and water.  These are meals that will actually be healthy and fun for your family.

I started this strategy a year or so ago when I was sick of going to grocery store and spending $200 every single time.  It seemed like once I was home and unloaded the groceries, I had no idea what I spent my money on!  I’m sure you can feel the frustrations, right?

If you don’t want your next monthly grocery bill to be as high as your mortgage payments, here’s what you need to do.  I promise it’s simple!

#1 Meal plan for 30 days

Before you even go to the grocery store, you’re going to want to create a menu for the entire month.  However you do it, it’s up to you, but what I do is simply create a calendar on Microsoft Word, and I will insert what I’m going to make for the day, along with the URL where I can I find the recipe.  What you’re going to want to focus on are recipes that cost less than $5 to make, and all of these recipes can be found by simply searching “$5 recipes” or even visiting Pinterest for countless ideas.  One of my favorites, even though it does charge a small fee ($5 per month), is 5dollarmealplan.com.

#2 Plan one or two meatless meals per week

If you’re a fan of meat, great, but as you may know, meat is going to be a budget killer.  It’s not uncommon to buy steaks and roasts for more than $10+ per pack.  Try to make it a habit to eat one to two meatless meals per week, and by doing so, you can really help your budget.  These meatless meals could include homemade pizzas, alfredo pasta, macaroni and so forth.  Again, use the Internet for inspiration as there are tens of thousands of ideas.

#3 Add the beans

If you like beans, then get in the habit of adding them to as many recipes as you can.  As a cheap, healthy filler, beans can easily be mixed into burgers and meats to stretch the meat to add more portions.

#4 Consider breakfast for dinner

Breakfast meals are some of the cheapest meals you can make, and if you have kids, you probably already know how much they love pancakes, waffles and eggs.  Try to cook a “breakfast for dinner” meal at least every 10 days to help stretch your budget.

#5 Always use leftovers

Chances are, especially if you have a kid that doesn’t eat for the night, you will have leftovers.  Don’t throw these away just yet since they can be a great meal for the next day for either lunch or dinner.  Whether it’s leftover soup or pulled pork, throw it in some Tupperware for an easy 10-minute dinner or lunch at the office.

#6 Limit your grocery shopping

As a family, I try to grocery shop no more than two times a month, but right now, I shoot for one time only.  If you can, try to create your 30-day meal plan and purchase everything for the next 30 days.  Yes, while you will probably need some staples such as milk and eggs, it’s okay to go grocery shopping for these, but if you’re afraid you’re going to spend too much, just go in with $20 in your pocket and that’s it.  Doing so can make you budget better.

Spending less than $200 per month can be done if you’re really good with planning.  It can take some tweaking at first, but I promise once you get into the swing of things, it’s a lot easier than you think!  Aside from the tips above, you can also do the following at first to help your meals in the future:

  1. Purchase meat in bulk and freeze for the future.
  2. Make your own bread with a bread maker.
  3. Always buy produce and fruit that’s in season.
  4. Avoid the processed food aisles, which are usually in the center aisles of the store.
  5. Consider lemon water as a drink of choice.
  6. Try to cook as much as you can from scratch. If it comes in a package, there’s a good chance you can make it!
  7. If you have the time, consider growing a garden.

There you have it!  If you have any ideas you’d like to add or any questions, I’d love to help.

Stephanie Lynch is from Howmuchisit.org, a cost-helping database designed to help consumers find out what things cost in life.

Becoming Mrs.Carey – Venues!

So I am going to try to do a few blog posts about our upcoming wedding, without making this blog be “all about our wedding”.

Working for Historic Columbia, I have gotten to work in two of the most beautiful venues in Columbia – Seibels House & the Robert Mills House.  I mainly work at Seibels, because its my favorite.  Its beautiful original hardwoods, and the black & white tiled sunroom are what stands out in that house for me.  However, for our budget – those two options were out.  Plus, they are both venues that get booked a year or more in advance!  We don’t have a year, we are getting married this summer.

After some searching and numbers crunching – we picked – Palmetto Collegiate Institute!    Palmetto Collegiate was built in 1881, and was used as a private school from 1881 until 1911 when it closed.  The building then went into private hands, becoming a residence for multiple families.  It was purchased by the Town of Lexington in 2001, and was briefly on the chopping block to be demolished to make room for additional parking for the town hall.   The town decided to renovate and use as a meeting/event space and what stands today is just that.  Using original photographs, architects created a space in keeping with the original style.


The other day we were running errands and I asked Jake if we could swing by.  We did, and walked around the grounds a bit.  I noticed there were some women coming in and out of the building – like they were setting up an event.  I peeked my head in and introduced myself.  They were actually from the local Shriner’s group, and were cleaning up from a luncheon.   They were sweet enough to give me a tour of the building, along with some good natured ribbing of Jake who was wearing a Michigan hat (they were Ohio State fans).  The tour gave us a little peace of mind over some of the decisions we have made, and also lead to some more discussion over how we would have things arranged (this is sure to change!).

See the gable on the top?  Its open to the inside and is a beautiful way to incorporate light into the space.  Saturday was a sunny day, and it helped light up the room.  The huge wide porches on 3 sides will be a great way to welcome our guests, and provide some shade on a summer day.  The grounds themselves are beautiful in winter, and from all the photos I have seen are also beautiful in the summer when everything is green and blooming.

Best part – the venue itself comes in under $600, and includes tables of all shapes & sizes, and chairs!  In working with brides at Historic Columbia, this is a HUGE expense!   So this was a win-win for us!   We know we will still rent a tent, to provide additional shade – but not having to rent tables & chairs is a load off!



Happy Birthday Jonathan!

To my train obsessed, mohawk wearing, Gamecock loving (and sometimes Michigan hat wearing), cowboy boot wearing, deer slaying baby boy.  You are now double-digits and mom cannot handle it!  You are growing up so fast, and I am proud of the young man you are becoming.  You sometimes make me crazy when you start singing “what-are-does” or making weird sounds to drive your sisters nuts.  You are fiercely protective of me, your stepmom and your sisters and I love that about you.  You have an amazing relationship with your dad and with Jake.  You are mama’s little boy always.


Merry Christmas!

From our family to yours – we wish you an amazing, blessed Christmas.  And I leave you with this song.  God has blessed us this year in incredible ways, and I cannot wait to see what 2017 brings for our family.  

Come and see what God has done
Noel, Noel
The story of amazing love
The light of the world
Given for us


2016 in Review

2016 overall in popular culture has been suck-tastic.  I mean, Prince died and then Muhammad Ali.  Then Alan Thicke died – seriously, stop.  If we can make it the last 11 days without someone dying that’d be great.     

However, in my corner of the world 2016 was amazing, and here are some examples how!  Sprinkled throughout are links to various posts I did throughout the year!  Enjoy the flashbacks, I know I did!

January 2016 – Brought in the new year dog sitting for my brother, and watching Anderson Cooper on CNN, spent way too many nights at basketball games with girlfriends, went on a pretty epic (and COLD!) day trip to Charleston with girlfriends and went on a first date with Jake.   I started attending Shandon Baptist with the kids.

February 2016 – somewhere between Jan 15th when Jake and I met and February 8th (super bowl weekend) – we made it official.  I’m not sure either one of us actually asked the other, we just sort of knew.  My kids met Jake for the first time on Valentines weekend.  Jake sent me flowers at work (amazing!).  I got 7″ cut off my hair (it looked amazing).  We went to more sporting events.  The kids and I took family photos on campus at the end of the month.

March 2016 – we surprised the kids with the news we were heading to Disney, Jake met my parents for the first time as well.  I lost a personal bet we made about the NCAA basketball tournament, and I am now the proud owner of my own University of Michigan polo shirt.

April 2016 – Weather warmed up, Natalee turned 7 and we went to a baseball game!  I surprised Jake with his mom visiting, and a birthday party!   I got to play with lots of babies at work, and a few puppies too.  We did the running man challenge at work.  Natalee turned 7.  Katie introduces her Uncle Rob to fun things on youtube.   I found an amazing blog post that helped me close a few chapters of my past.  We braved Ikea twice and started our bedroom furniture collection and I took Jake to his first event at Williams Brice Stadium.  

May 2016 – We went to Charleston with friends and got sunburned.  We took the kids to the Blowfish game and they got to run the bases.  We started our obsession with Pelican Snowballs as well.  I got a signed Coach Muschamp football at work.  Jake bought a new truck!

June 2016 Katie turned 15 and the kids did VBS at 2 different churches.  I won tickets to a NCAA regional baseball game, so we all played hooky from work and went.   We went to visit my family again and enjoyed the sunshine!   Jake took me to meet his family in Michigan and I fell in love with the zero humidity there.  We watched fireworks at baseball games while singing songs from Frozen.  We ate more Pelican Snowballs, and watched a lot of baseball on TV.  

July 2016 – My parents and I  took the kids to Disney for a week.  Jake and I had an amazing date night at Cola’s to celebrate a happy court date (someone’s divorce finally being final!), more Pelican Snowballs.  July was a bit slower because we had so much going on with Disney.

August – Jake’s mom came to visit for a few days, and we took them to the zoo! (we are now members of the zoo – so cool) and we went bowling with the kids.  The kids started school (2nd, 4th & 10th grades).  We went to see my parents in Greensboro and went to a golf tournament and saw Rickie Fowler.  And college football made its return!  

September – I started working part time for Historic Columbia, and fell in love with Seibels House.  I took Jake to his first Carolina tailgate & football game.  We took Katie to some high school football games as well.  Jonathan started fall ball.  Jake and I started a marriage prep & enrich class at church.

Octobermore football, more baseball for Jonathan, some trick or treating and lots of fun with friends.   We made boiled peanuts for the first time (blog post here!).  We took a toddler to the zoo and tried to get her to take an afternoon nap (news flash – Jake slept, I didnt).

November – More football games and we took the kids to the last home football game.  We went to the Michigan-Carolina men’s basketball game (Carolina won), and went to my parents for Thanksgiving.  We took family photos & we got engaged!

December (so far!) – bowl games to come for football, lots of trips here and there to see family, 1 bout of food poisoning, a semi-promotion to a new position in my department, lots of Christmas cookies and some Christmas oranges.  A few or ten boxes arrive from amazon.com (best shopping ever!).  We prepare for the last days of work for 2016, and prepare for our trip again to NC to see my family.  And for new years, and all the amazing that 2017 is going to bring!  


It was a slow day at work today, so I managed to get a chance to write on my lunch break.  I need to do better, its one of my goals for the new year – to write more.   I know that with trying to find a house, and the wedding I should have a good amount of material to use!

This year has been an amazing adventure, it really has.  I am going to do a year in review in a couple of days, so be on the look out for that.  But for today, I thought I’d share our Christmas card!  


Swagbucks at the Holidays!

Now that the holidays are in full gear, you can get great deals and cash back for shopping through Swagbucks! Just go here and see all of the great cash back you can get from some of your favorite stores. Here’s how it works:

1. Click here to see the stores offering deals and cash back.
2. Click through to the store(s) of your choice and do some shopping!
3. Get cash back in the form of points (called SB) that you can redeem for free gift cards so you can stretch your holiday budget even further!

As an extra bonus, if you’re not a Swagbucks member and join through my link (or you’ve joined through my link this month), you’ll get an one time 200 SB bonus when you spend $25 or more in any of the Swagbucks Shop stores before January 1st! Swagbucks is a great site where you earn SB points for doing every day things online like shopping, discovering deals, taking surveys, watching videos, searching the web, and more. The SB you earn, the more gift cards you can get, which are a HUGE help this time of year.   I have used amazon.com gift cards I have earned to purchase many of the gifts I am giving this year.  It helps to keep my budget in check!

Family Photos!

Here are some sneak peeks from the photos dad took us of last weekend over the Thanksgiving break.  They were taken at a park near my parents house at sunset!


Our Christmas Card Photo – so family can be on the lookout for one in your mailbox!


Little did I know that about 25 minutes later, he would be proposing to me!

dsc_0059One of my absolute favorites!  Katie is like “this is what I have to deal with?”


So, I guess the title gives nothing away when it comes to what the surprise was – but…I won’t beat around the bush:



Jake asked me to marry him over Thanksgiving while we were visiting my parents.  We had gone to take family photos (another post with those), and little did I know – but he had the ring in his pocket the whole time!

The kids were being a little clingy while we were taking photos, and he couldn’t get them to all stay together with their sister so he could ask me on the bridges at the park we were at.  Once we were done with photos, we were walking back to the car and he asked Katie to please get the kids in the car.  We were holding hands, and we walked over to this little pier next to the boat launch.  I thought he just wanted a few moments away from the kids to kiss me, and just enjoy the last little bit of the sunset.  There was a kid on the pier looking for crabs in the water, so I talked to him for  a few seconds before I turned around to find Jake down on one knee.  I said “oh my god” several times, and turned to apologize to this kid as well.  I apologized because we had essentially trapped this kid on the end of the pier and he couldn’t get off unless he went around us or in the water.  Jake said he wasn’t paying attention anyway.  I of course grabbed Jake’s face and kissed him several times as he asked me to be his wife.  It was perfect.  We hugged, kissed and he slipped a beautiful ring on my hand.  I amazingly – didn’t cry (Jake says it is because I was too cold).

We started to walk back to the car hand in hand and the kids came out of the car running towards us.  Jonathan yelled “its about time” and the girls were so excited.  Even my nephew Kyler was excited, although I don’t think he knew exactly what was going on.

It was the perfect proposal, and the ring is amazing.  Jake did such a good job!  The photo is not the best, but its the one that he took of me so he could make a really sweet facebook post!