How to grocery shop for a family of 4?

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4 Things I Do to Keep Our Grocery Budget at $200 a Month for a Family of Four

When we first got married five years ago we had less than $1,000 cash to our names. Needless to say, money was tight but we were determined to find a way to get ahead. It was at that point that my husband suggested a grocery/household budget of something like $100 per month. I balked and insisted it was impossible. I didn’t mind being frugal, but neither did I feel like eating PB&J sandwiches twice a day! And besides, I felt like I was already doing my best to try to shop smart — and even so our grocery bills were somewhere closer to $200. And that was just for groceries alone; toiletries and household supplies came out of a different budget category.

It wasn’t until about a year later when I discovered the world of coupons that I really got into trying to keep our grocery budget low. Suddenly it became a game, a challenge. I realized that if I got creative I could trim our grocery budget significantly. It took a bit of time and a lot of learning, but eventually my husband was wowed by the change in our budget (and probably in my attitude too!). And to be honest, I was amazed myself. I was now spending less on grocery, toiletries, and household items combined than what I had been before on groceries alone.

Here are a few of the things that I’ve learned that have helped keep our grocery/household/toiletries budget at $200 per month for a family of four. (Just for reference sake our family consists of two adults who are pretty big eaters, a 3 1/2 yr. old boy with an appetite as big as mine and a 7 mo. old baby girl who at this point is exclusively breastfed.)

1. Choose to do Without

While choosing to do without is not popular or even fun, it honestly is probably one of the biggest ways we save.

Some of the ways we do without are:

  • My husband takes sandwiches in his lunch almost every day to work. But he has insisted that he doesn’t need both meat and cheese, so most days he just has a meat and lettuce sandwich. He really doesn’t mind, and the savings of not buying all that cheese does make a difference.
  • Speaking of cheese, we hardly ever eat cheese just by itself. I use it in cooking but we rarely have it just to eat as a side or snack. Do we not like cheese? No, actually we all love cheese! But it is something we’ve decided to consider a luxury around here to help keep our spending low.
  • Orange juice is a splurge item that I get only when I can buy it for $0.99 or less. Again, we all love orange juice, but it’s not something we need to have and we can easily eat fruit and get our recommended serving that way much cheaper.
  • We don’t buy lots of snack foods. (Talk about a fast way to jack up your grocery spending!) We actually don’t eat many snacks and if we do they tend to be more things like raisins, nuts, fruit or homemade cookies, energy bites, and healthy fudge. I still buy chips and crackers sometimes if I can get them for a great price, but they aren’t things that we always have on hand.
  • We do several different things to save money on meat — and one of the biggest ways we do that is simply by not buying expensive cuts. In fact, I have a maximum buy price of $2.00/lb. for meats (and actually for cheese too) which means that we don’t often eat things like bacon or steaks. But so far we haven’t suffered and I think we still have a great variety.

One of the side benefits to choosing to do without some things is that you learn to appreciate what you do have even more. Because our sandwiches typically consist only of meat and lettuce, suddenly a sandwich with meat and cheese becomes a real treat and we enjoy it immensely. I think doing without helps us appreciate some of the little things in life more fully.

  • Shop our feeding favorites!

2. Don’t Be Brand Snobs

When I began using coupons I started realizing that I could save a lot if I chose to be open-minded about trying brands that I didn’t typically use. You don’t have to be very smart to figure out that if your usual brand of spaghetti sauce typically costs $0.99 on sale but you can get another brand for just $0.50 using a coupon that you are going to save a bundle! I’ll be honest, there are still a couple of products that I am a brand snob about but overall, I purchase whatever I can get for the least amount of money.

3. Cook From Scratch

I grew up in a home where my mom cooked mostly from scratch so I was used to this. And fortunately, I enjoy cooking and baking. But it was still convenient to buy pre-packaged things to save time. It didn’t take me long to realize that it also was often a quick way to blow money.

Yes, cooking from scratch takes a bit more time, but with a bit of planning ahead I’ve learned that it can be relatively fast too. One of the things I do that helps save time is to cook up large quantities of ground beef and chicken and then put it in the freezer in smaller portions. That way whenever I need a pound of ground beef or 2 cups of chicken for a recipe, I’m saved the time of having to cook it up. I also often make double recipes of a dish and then freeze half of it. Making twice as much of something doesn’t take much longer at all and when I have an unusually busy day it’s so handy to be able to just pull dinner out of my freezer. I also apply this same principle to baked things like bread, rolls, cookies, and biscuits.

4. Have a Price List

This might seem a bit silly but it does really help. By keeping track of which stores have the lowest prices on certain items I have been able to save a lot. And it also helps me know when something is a good stock-up price, too. Keeping a price list takes a minimal amount of time and effort, but it really does pay off.

Obviously grocery budgets will vary greatly and not all of you will be able to spend only $200 a month. What I do to cut costs might not work for you, and what you do I might find to be frustrating. However, I’m convinced that we can all find ways to trim our grocery spending. I encourage you to challenge yourself to find ways to trim just $10 from your grocery spending this month. Get creative! Think outside the box. It just might be easier than you think!

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

Lydia Beiler loves sharing easy recipes, money saving ideas and homemaking inspiration on her blog, Thrifty Frugal Mom. She and her husband of have been blessed with the gift of four amazing, and sometimes exasperating, children who keep them on their toes and fill their lives with lots of fun, crazy moments. They enjoy the adventure of big city living in Philadelphia and are currently spending lots of time fixing up the older house that they call home.

  • By Lydia Beiler

 

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This meal plan for a family of four came out of a need to spend no more than $70/week on our grocery budget and ended up being a delicious menu plan that we revisit frequently.

Our $70/week Meal Plan for 4 People

I think anyone that’s ever met me knows how I feel about 15 minute meals. When we went through the 90 Day Budget Bootcamp and reduced our spending by over $23,000 a year, we realized that by planning for 15 minute meals every night we could actually stick to our meal plan (first time ever!) and because of that stick to our budget (also first time ever!) That program’s actually free now and completely life changing- so you should grab it while it’s free here. They make dinner so simple and easy that you end up eating at home because it takes longer to eat out than to go home and whip up one of these super simple meals.

When I first started figuring out how to create a budget we could stick to, I used a ton of convenience foods because raw meat scared the dickens out of me (no laughing! This is a judgment-free zone). Now, I’m pretty much over my raw meat fear. We flip between Freezer Cooking, slow cooker meals, and 15 min. meals.

Then we discovered stir fry only takes about 20 minutes and it earned a solid place of its own in our cooking line up.

Because seriously, when you’re creating a meal plan for a family of four you need easy solutions.

There are 3 major benefits to a stir fry: They are quick to cook, cheap to make, and can include tons of veggies. Jon used to love to get Chinese out and every once in a while, I would give in and we would head out.

Every single dish we made this week tasted better than anything I’ve ever had in a restaurant.

Ginger Chicken Stir fry Photo Courtesy: Ginny.

You don’t technically need one, but we purchased this Wok for our stir fries. The wok makes stir fry so much quicker and easier!

Consider the idea of fitting cooking gadgets into your grocery budget. By freezer cooking for one month, I was able to purchase a food processor, giant mixing bowl, stock pot, giant measuring cup and a 6 quart slow cooker all within our $120/week grocery budget (and still came in way under). The idea here isn’t to clutter your kitchen with useless gadgets, but to make intentional purchases of things that will make cooking easier for you.

If you eat 3 meals a day at home then you make 1,095 meals a year. You can consider yourself a professional chef with numbers like that and get the tools that make your job easier.

My favorites are a large slow cooker, a giant mixing bowl, a bread machine (mostly for the dough, I still bake in the oven), a wok, and a giant electric griddle (why make 12 pancakes when you can make 60 for the same time and effort and freeze them for super easy breakfasts? Or turn them into make ahead sausage, egg and cheese sandwiches).

Photo edited. Courtesy of Jeffreyw.

Here’s an example of how low you can get your grocery budget with a week of stir fry (example uses 2 adults and 2 toddlers to feed). We used this grocery plan for the week that we purchased the wok so that we could fit the wok into our grocery budget.

Obviously, you won’t want to have stir fry every day for the rest of your life (although I’m seriously tempted).

This is just an example for the potential grocery savings. Most people don’t know how much they spend on groceries for one dinner, but many know how much they spend for the week. (If you have no idea… consider menu planning to figure it out. It’s the easiest way to save a few hundred dollars a month. Yes. You read that right, a few hundred.)

Sweet and Sour Chicken. Photo edited. Courtesy of Alpha.

Need help reducing your spending?

If you need extensive help on creating and sticking to a budget, the best resource I can give you is the free step by step class called “Budget for Beginners Boot Camp” that walks you through not only how to create a budget, but how to set up the basic routines in your life that will support your efforts to save money. Because transforming your finances is about more than just the budget.

You can sign up for the Budget for Beginners Boot Camp class for free by clicking here.

Not a fan of stir fry but need super cheap quick and easy meals? Try these…

  • 15 Minute Meals from a $5 Rotisserie Chicken.
  • 3 Weeks of Cheap and Easy 15 Minute Meals.
  • 2 Weeks of 15 Minute Meals from Scratch.

$70/WEEK MEAL PLAN:

  1. Pancakes with Banana
  2. Oatmeal
  3. Cereal & Milk
  4. Tomato and Cheese Omelet
  5. Peanut Butter Toast with Honey and Banana.
  6. Chocolate Waffles with Peanut Butter Syrup
  7. Scrambled Eggs, Banana Boats with Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chips. (To make banana boats, just scoop out an indentation in the top of the banana. Spread peanut butter in there and sprinkle with chocolate chips, crushed nuts or raisins.)

Lunch:

Leftovers from dinner each night.

Dinner:

Make a little extra of each for lunches the next day. We usually made the sauce as directed and then added extra chicken and veggies to give us more of the good stuff and less of the sugar. Click on links for the recipes. We add the snow peas, broccoli, peppers and onion to each dish in place of the veggies they have in the recipe to make it easier/cheaper on us.

  1. Orange Chicken Stir fry
  2. Honey Siracha Chicken Stir fry
  3. Weeknight Chicken Stir fry
  4. General Tso’s Chicken Stir fry
  5. Kung Poa Chicken Stir fry
  6. Sesame Chicken

Honey Siracha Chicken

Want more ideas? Check out my Stir Fry Pinterest Board.

Grocery List for Week:

For the above meal plan for a family of four.

Bananas: .88

Eggs: 1.39

Milk: 2.79

Butter: 2.29

Tomato: $1

Cheddar cheese: 2.79

Siracha: 2.99

4 bags of Aldi frozen skinless boneless chicken thighs or breasts: $5.99/3 pound bag

Orange marmalade: 2.69

Garlic: .99

Broccoli: 1.99/pound x 4 pounds

Snow peas: 1.98/pound x 3 pounds

Onion: 1.69/2lb

8 Yellow green and Red Peppers: 2/1.39

Sesame seeds: 3.19 (optional)

Scallions: .99

Dried Thai peppers: 3.99 (optional- We skipped these)

Unsalted peanuts: 2.39

Chinese black vinegar (If you don’t feel like making the trip to a specialty store, use 1 part rice vinegar, 1 part balsamic vinegar, and 3 parts water): $0 (We used the balsamic/rice vinegar from our pantry).

Sesame oil: 4.99

Pineapple rings: .89

Total: $69.50/week worth of groceries.

This would feed a family of four for about $278/month.

Feel free to add the cost of the wok into your list like we did.

Obviously, this isn’t what we eat every week. We use a combination of freezer cooking, 15 min meals, and slow cooking meals, but these wok creations are quickly becoming our favorite!

Pantry Ingredients:

These items are stored for a long time and the recipes need a smaller amount, so likely you won’t have to purchase a new container. Just run through the items and make sure you have each.

Ketchup: 1.19

Cornstarch: 1.19

White vinegar: 1.00

Garlic salt: 1.00

Chicken broth cubes: 2.29

Ground ginger: 4.29 (for a bag that will last you the whole year!)

White rice: 4.99 (10 pounds)

Rice vinegar: 1.99

Soy sauce: 1.19

Cocoa powder: 2.49

Chocolate chips: 1.79

Flour: 1.77

Sugar: 2.30

Peanut butter: 2.29

Honey: 2.49

Pancake syrup: 1.59

Oatmeal: 2.19

Brown sugar: 1.39

Salt: .35

Cheerios: 1.49

Canola oil: 2.69

Total: 40.96 (In the unlikely event you actually have to purchase these, you won’t need to purchase them again for a while).

We didn’t use coupons. We shopped at Aldi and then Wegmans for the things that Aldi didn’t carry and ended up under grocery budget (we budget $120/week), even when you factor in the cost of the wok.

We do use Ibotta though for all of our groceries, which helps shave a few dollars off without any effort. Read my full review of Ibotta here.

Groceries: $69.50

Wok: $21.00

$90.50 Total for the Week!

What’s your favorite meal pan to feed a family of four?

You can now join the 90 Day Budget Boot Camp for free! Get step by step instructions for how to set up a budget, maintain a budget, and save money. With hundreds of success stories and reviews, this is not an opportunity you want to miss! Join the Budget Boot Camp here.

Other popular posts…

What’s your favorite cheap and easy meal?

Linked up at Thrifty Thursday and Frugal Friday.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click & make a purchase, I receive a small commission that helps keep the Busy Budgeter up and running. Read my full disclosure policy here.

When you’re in charge of family meals, a trip to the grocery store may seem like a daunting task as you navigate the dizzying array of options while trying to stay within the food budget. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a middle class family spends about 13 percent of household income on food, and those who make less might spend more than 30 percent of their take-home pay on food. The Thrifty Food Plan from USDA provides frugal estimates for people who want to go easy on their wallets and still enjoy good meals. By following the Thrifty Food Plan, a family of four can buy a week’s worth of groceries for about $20 per day. With the right strategies, it’s possible!

Big Ticket Items

Some foods put a noticeable dent in the budget. For instance, meat tends to be the most expensive item in the grocery cart. Substituting plant-based protein choices for meat can help decrease your grocery expenses. Dried beans, peas and lentils are inexpensive and can be made in big batches and frozen for later use, so you always have them on hand. Or, to save time, buy canned versions of these items, which are still very affordable. Opt for low sodium or no-salt-added varieties. Watch out for convenience foods, such as pre-cut vegetables and single-serving packaged foods — they’re time savers, but not so budget-friendly. Fresh produce that’s not in season can add serious digits to your total at checkout as well.

Small Changes Lead to Big Savings

Cooking just about anything from scratch will yield health and financial benefits. Start by keeping an eye on specials at the meat counter and incorporate those items into the menu. To save even more, try spreading it out in several meals in a casserole, stir-fry or soup. When purchasing fresh produce, buy it in season and in its most basic form. There is extra cost associated with convenience, so be strategic about produce purchases. The least expensive choices usually will be what is in season and in its natural form, and the most expensive likely will be pre-cut and packaged produce. Canned and frozen choices fall across the price spectrum and make great pantry staples, so you never fail to fill half your plate with fruits and veggies. When choosing canned produce, look for varieties with no salt or sugar added. Produce that comes bagged, such as apples or potatoes, may be cheaper than buying individual pieces.

Method to the Madness

Being intentional about saving money on food means being organized and going in with a plan. Plan your meals for the week, make a list and stick to it to minimize impulse buying. Unit price is a sometimes overlooked savings strategy. Buying a larger size of the food you want because it has a lower unit price helps save money in the long run. For instance, a large container of yogurt that you have to dish out is usually cheaper per ounce than purchasing individual cups of yogurt. Just make sure you can eat all of the food before it starts to go bad. Wasted food is wasted money.

Meal Planning Tips

Food waste adds up quickly, so plan to eliminate it as much as possible. Before you head to the store, check your refrigerator, freezer, cabinets and pantry for what you already have. Practice the “first in, first out” rule. This means that you eat what is oldest and rotate newer items behind the older stuff. That way, you easily reach for items that are closer to their expiration dates and reduce the chances of wasting food. Another great tip to prevent food waste is freezing half your loaf of bread. Consider buying half of your produce now and make a quick mid-week stop at the store just to fill up on produce. This way you always have fresh produce on hand and aren’t wasting anything.

Create menus around the foods you have already and choose recipes for the week that incorporate overlapping ingredients. For example, the Thrifty Food Plan mixes fresh, canned and frozen produce, and has online resources that provide recipe ideas along with a cost analysis. If shopping from home is offered in your area, some grocery services allow you to compare prices between products to get the best value possible on the items you want.

Getting the most bang for your buck takes determination and planning, but it’s worth it as you enjoy the satisfaction of using your money wisely, and maybe even having some left over from the savings!

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After five weeks I finally finished redoing Kailyn’s bedroom. It seems when it comes to room makeovers I’m always over confident in the amount of time it will take me. Especially since I thought I could have Kailyn’s room done in one week of evening work.

Yeah, it didn’t happen.

But every time I finish a room, I look around and realize that over 95% of the furniture I own is hand-me-downs.

I’ve come a long way in the past decade.

You see, one of my worst financial mistakes was financing furniture when I was first on my own. I was so wrapped up in having the “perfect” living room set that I ran to Rent-2-Own and got a couch, love seat, coffee table, and lamps on weekly payments. I paid on that set FOREVER. In the end I probably spent thousands of dollars on something I could’ve purchased for $900 at an outlet furniture store.

That experience completely turned me off from buying furniture. In fact, I went through my house and have only found two pieces of furniture I bought new. (And one I bought secondhand.)

I’ve gotten almost all of the furniture I have now for free. Here’s how:

Accept Hand-Me-Downs

Being the cheap one in the family can really pay-off. I’d say a good 90% of my furniture consists of hand me downs. The other ten percent would consist of one chair and one TV stand I bought and a second hand hutch I refinished.

And guess what? It’s all nice.

Some of the stuff probably isn’t what I would have picked out had I went shopping for brand new furniture myself, but it works. And what I’ve found to hold true is that you get used to your furniture and don’t even notice it after a while. (That goes for both brand new and hand-me-down items.)

Unfortunately I couldn’t get her entire room in the pic but every single piece of furniture in here is from someone else. The dresser pictured was given to me by my Grandpa. The bed was left by an old roommate of Jamie’s. And not pictured are a dresser and toy box that were Jamie’s as a child. Even the big horse on the bed and the Christmas tree in the corner were second-hand from family members!

My rules for taking hand me downs:

If someone wants to give me hand me downs I generally abide by these rules before taking their offer. (Otherwise I’d be stuck with furniture I’d need to dispose of.)

  • In working order
  • Relatively clean (doesn’t have to be perfect. I do have kids who will mess furniture up after all. However, I don’t want anything that is stained up or smells.)
  • I have a designated spot for it/am in need of it. (I don’t take furniture that I don’t have a spot for. I like to be clutter free.)
  • Neutral/Goes with the room or can be refinished if it doesn’t

Refinish

I like to refinish furniture. It’s just fun taking something you kind of like (or don’t like at all) and putting your own spin on it. Plus refinishing is pretty darn easy. I used to be intimidated by it but trust me – if I can refinish furniture pretty much anyone can do it.

A few things I’ve refinished:

  • A $30 hutch from an auction that was once absolutely hideous but now one of my favorite things that I own.
  • Coffee tables and end tables in the living room given to me by my old boss.
  • A railroad bench I found in the garage when we moved here.
  • Book shelves.
  • Wall shelves.

I also have a couple other projects I need to work on which includes a dining room table my Dad gave me that was once my great grandmothers and a dresser/bar thing-y (I don’t know what to call it) that was also left here when we moved in.

Shop Second-Hand

A $30 hutch that was refinished. Even all the dishes inside were given to me by family members!

If you don’t have friends or family members trying to unload their old stuff on you then shop second-hand. You can find unique items that are high quality but lower in price than the brand new stuff.

While I didn’t have to purchase most furniture second-hand I did score great deals on all of my animal stuff by buying used.

No matter what style of décor you like you can find ways to make second-hand work for you. You might have to use a little creativity, but that’s the fun part 🙂 Also, your wallet with thank you. I promise.

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Looking at your home, you may get the urge to update it. There is only one problem, you’re on a budget. Well, in my experience, a budget doesn’t have to delay you furnishing your home. In fact, furnishing a home on a budget is totally possible.

How to Furnish a Home on a Budget

Head to Ikea

One of my favorite places in the world to shop for home furnishings is Ikea. For us, Ikea is one of those places we only get a few items at a time. While you can buy stuff on a budget there, it can be expensive to buy a bunch of stuff. Make a list of what you really want and then stick to it!

Check out the garage sales

Summertime is the perfect time to check out those garage sales for home goods. You really need to have an idea of what you want before you go to garage sales. You also need to set a limit on what you spend because it’s easy to get out of hand at garage sales.

Check out what your friends have for sale

How many times do you see a friend post a piece of furniture on Facebook? Don’t be afraid to snag it. Typically, it’s a good deal, which means you can stay on budget! The only problem with this is you never know when your friends will get rid of something. The waiting game can be hard.

Head to the bargain stores

No one wants to buy ‘cheap’ furniture, but sometimes you don’t have a choice. The truth is that sometimes cheap is all you can afford. And the crazy thing is that manufacturers make cute furniture that is always cheap. Just be prepared to replace it sooner rather than later.

Use your imagination

Some of the best decorators out there are people who have an imagination. It may be crazy, but put your own spin on decor you find at different places. You may find a piece of decor you like at one store. Buy it and then keep shopping for more! Good deals can be hard to find.

Furnishing your home on budget comes down to patience and keeping an eye out for a good deal. I find my best deals when I least expect it. However, I always have my budget ready, so I can find those perfect decor pieces.

House Articles:

Master Bedroom – Romantic Modern Farmhouse Design

4 Must Have Bathroom Items for Your New Home

Toilet Matters: Why Choosing the Right Toilet is a Must

Kitchen Design – Dark Cherry Cabinets and Black Stainless Steel Appliances

Great Room – Stone Fireplace and Custom Built In

Melissa is a soccer mom who has been married to her best friend for 21 years. She loves sharing recipes, travel reviews and tips that focus on helping busy families make memories.

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I’m working on lowering our grocery budget just a bit. I’ve got 4 boys and while they’re not all teenagers, they sure do they eat like they are. These kids are hungry and I have to stay alert to save money on groceries.

My kitchen and grocery routines are always a work in progress, but I’ve got it down to a rough science.

Here are 14 strategies for how to save money on groceries and keep hungry kids happy!

We’ve eaten a fairly “real food” unprocessed diet for many years. This means I have to get creative in order to keep everyone full and happy without spending a fortune on groceries or my entire day cooking in the kitchen.

How much can you save on groceries with these tips?

The answer all depends on your current grocery bill and your buying habits. But with a little effort and planning, I’ll bet you can easily save 10-15% on groceries if you implement 3 or 4 of these money-saving ideas.

1. Stay out of the grocery store! Limit your shopping.

I try to keep the trips to the store to an absolute minimum. In fact, I try to do one large shopping trip per month (here’s how this works) and then do quick runs for milk and produce every week.

Here’s why:

  • It forces me to plan ahead which saves time and money (a trip to the store is at least 45 minutes round trip and eating out is rare for us due to budget and food allergy issues)
  • It keeps those impulse purchases down.
  • It saves tons of driving time (and gasoline).

(and get a free workbook of your own).

2. Make a meal plan

Even if it’s a rough and boring one. You can always skip a meal if the time comes and you don’t want to cook it. Still, having a plan is better than no plan.

Don’t be overly ambitious with your meal plan. Don’t attempt to cook 3 new meals in a week if you’re not going to have the time.

If you need a simple system for meal planning, take a look at the Feed Your Family Planner.

The Feed Your Family Planner contains a few simple forms that you can use to plan out a week’s worth of shopping and menus in about 10 minutes.

If you want to save on groceries with coupons but you don’t want to spend a lot of time clipping, check the Ibotta app for extra savings while you’re planning your menu (grab a $10 bonus when you sign up and redeem your first rebate!). Ibotta gives you cash rebates on all kinds of groceries, even things like milk and meat. It’s totally worth the few minutes it takes to verify your receipts.

3. Serve salad or veggies first

Veggies taste better when you haven’t yet had a delicious burger or plate of pasta. This helps get those veggies eaten and fills kids (and parents) up with fiber and all the other healthy good stuff.

Experiment with different ingredients, dressings and dips to make salad more interesting. If your kids aren’t big vegetable fans, get creative – add cheese sauce to make broccoli delicious, serve raw veggies with dip and don’t forget the butter to help everyone absorb those fat-soluble vitamins. Did you know butter is actually healthy for you? You’re welcome.

Herbal tea is a refreshing alternative.

4. Keep those kids hydrated!

Encourage kids to drink plenty of water or herbal tea (this method makes a half gallon at a time). Besides being healthy, staying hydrated helps kids eat a bit less. Keep your water iced in a jar or pitcher in the fridge and offer fun straws (like these!) for additional appeal.

Oh and skip the juice. You’ll avoid tons of empty calories along with money spent on juice and effort lugging it all home from the store. Kids really can thrive without juice; it’s not the same as eating whole fruit.

5. Do not cook kids their own separate meals

Giving in to demands from your pint-sized tyrants is definitely easier than standing your ground. However, I firmly believe you can “allow” your child to become picky (special needs aside). We were guilty of this error with my first son and it’s created habits I’m still working to break.

Do not, I repeat, do not give in to requests for boxed chicken nuggets and spaghetti-os every night.

This doesn’t mean you never serve these things; you can rotate through family favorites including kid- friendly ones. But if you serve your kids “regular” foods and not ultra-processed “kid foods”from the beginning, they won’t balk (as much).

And as I’ve been known to say lovingly to my own kids (feel free to steal this line) “You don’t have to like it, you just have to eat it.”

My 4th child is in a phase where he’d “like” to be picky (he’s 5).

He doesn’t really want to eat anything besides potatoes, rice, rice cakes with cream cheese and any variety of dairy food I’ll give him. Do you see a pattern here?

But he knows I mean business and that broccoli needs to be eaten before he gets french fries. Funny thing is that after a couple bites, he remembers he actually likes broccoli with butter and salt! It just takes a little help to get him to that place.

Bananas make a perfect snack! No cooking required 🙂

6. Cook in bulk

Of course! Any time you can double up on a recipe, you’ll save 90% of the prep time for the next meal. If you are cooking for a large family, cooking in bulk will save you hours and hours of time and money.

Ideas for bulk cooking:

  • Make a 2nd batch of mac and cheese for the freezer
  • Package half of the cooked ground turkey or beef for quick tacos or chili later in the week
  • Homemade chicken stock keeps for a week or two in the fridge.
  • Make homemade yogurt a gallon at at time with this easy method
  • All kinds of baked goods

If you want to go big time with bulk cooking, $5 Dinners has a brand new freezer cooking meal plan. You can use this plan to assemble 10 meals in an hour. Sweet!

I’ll do anything to avoid going to the grocery store! I’ll substitute for missing ingredients, rearrange my meal plan and get creative in order to not have to make an extra trip.

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7. Use inexpensive ingredients as the base of your meal

If every meal is built around a juicy meatloaf or boneless chicken breast, your grocery bill is going to grow very quickly. On the other hand, if you start with an inexpensive starch and then add some other ingredients to round things out, you’ll keep your costs down.

Here are some super frugal foods to use as the main ingredient of a meal:

  • potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • rice
  • beans (dried are super frugal but even canned beans are affordable)
  • eggs
  • tortillas
  • bread
  • oatmeal (breakfast casseroles and muffins)
  • wheat flour (sadly GF flour is not at all frugal)

Once you’ve chosen your base ingredients, add on veggies or fruit and protein.

My cookbook, Feed Your Family Fast, has lots of ideas for easy, frugal meals.

8. Make sure you use up all your leftovers

If you’re throwing out leftovers, it’s a huge drain on your budget. I know that some kids turn up their noses at leftovers. I may even have been one myself.

But leftovers are a mom’s gift to herself!

Package up dinner leftovers into individual containers (this set is in constant rotation in my kitchen) for lunches or snacks. Pasta and soups reheat beautifully in the microwave and they may even taste better the next day.

If you find you buy things that go uneaten, back up and work on meal planning. Or try giving leftovers a new life.

  • Throw all kinds of veggies, leftover pasta and rice into soups
  • Turn leftover baked potatoes into fried potatoes
  • Freeze over-ripe bananas and make banana muffins on the weekend
  • Freeze the odd half cup of pumpkin puree or tomato puree and work it into a future recipe

Or take note of the foods you typically end up throwing away and see how you can prevent that waste.

Do you need to cook smaller meals? Try fewer new things for now? Serve smaller portions until you know if your kids will eat something?

If all else fails, compost as much as you can. Here are some do’s and don’ts of composting.

Tomatoes in last year’s garden. They were so sweet, the kids treated them like candy.

9. Grow a vegetable garden

Seriously – this is a great way to save some money on your grocery bill every month. We started a vegetable garden last year and it turned out better than I expected. Plus, your kids may venture to eat things they’d otherwise NEVER touch. And I always give bonus points for fresh air and sunshine 🙂

10. Get those kids working in the kitchen

Kids who cook are waaaay more likely to try new foods and eat better than kids who don’t. I’m sure there’s a study somewhere that proves this but for now, just try it yourself and see. We adore the Kids Cook Real Food course (enrollment is currently closed but you can get on the waitlist)

11. Put some food out of sight or off limits

It’s easy to keep your kid out of the cookie jar when they’re 3 years old. It’s a lot harder to keep a big kid from helping himself to a cookie when he’s up late doing homework and the rest of the house is in bed.

To help with this issue, we have some of our food stored in our basement.

This allows me to stock up on staples and also keeps those treats a little less convenient. It keeps me out of the treats as well 🙂

In addition, we set limits on what can be eaten when. For instance, when I do buy cereal, it’s usually reserved for breakfasts and any packaged convenience snacks are strictly for school lunch days. The kids are good enforcers of these rules as well since they don’t want their school snacks to be gone when they’re packing their lunches for the day.

12. Speaking of convenience snacks, the fewer the better

Packaged snacks may taste great and save tons of time, but they don’t fill my kids up and cost many times what it costs to make homemade versions.

I did resort to a lot of packaged “real food” snacks this school year, but this summer I’m committed to ditching that habit and making most of our snacks at home.

Some of our favorite go-to homemade and healthy snacks:

  • Popcorn (how to make simple stove-popped popcorn)
  • Fresh fruit
  • Veggies and dip
  • Homemade hummus
  • No-cook GF energy bites from 5 Dollar Dinners (so delicious!)
  • Muffins of all types
  • Leftovers
  • Homemade yogurt with honey or jam (stevia for me)
  • Easy homemade 4 ingredient bread

Here’s a bigger list of homemade snacks to take on the go.

13. Tell them to stop eating

I’ve heard that kids (especially little ones) will stop eating when they’re full. Have you heard this too?

Unfortunately this hasn’t been the case in my home. So it’s not uncommon at our dinner table for us to tell one of the children to wait 10 minutes before having another helping of something. Or if they’re convinced they’re hungry, they’re welcome to eat all the veggies they want.

Usually after 10 minutes, their brains have gotten the message that they’re actually full and they’re not interested in another helping.

14. Serve dinner right after school (the European model)

My German mother-in-law always serves the big meal of the day at noon. I have experimented with serving dinner when when the kids come home from school when I’m super prepared and it works beautifully.

My kids are hungry when they get home from school.

Instead of them scarfing down snacks and being hungry an hour later, if I have dinner ready early, they’re satisfied and they’ve had a good, healthy meal.

Then at dinnertime, we still gather together, but they’re not terribly hungry by then so they’ll eat salad or a bit more of the leftover dinner.

Dealing with different needs (food allergies, pickiness, special diets, etc.)

My grandmother (mother of 5), once told me if 3 out of her 5 kids liked dinner, she considered it a winner! Talk about re-framing your expectations!

I’ve gradually learned to become “ok” when not everyone loves what I cook for dinner. There’s always something everyone can eat and there’s always an apple or a banana later if a particular child just can’t find enough to eat.

That being said, I don’t like cooking too many options.

I also try to make sure that no one feels left out. I plan meals with a crazy matrix in my head of who can eat what.

Here are just some of the food restrictions in our family:

  • My youngest son has many food allergies which make many “regular” foods off limits for him. Read the crazy story of how we discovered his food allergies on a post I wrote for the Humbled Homemaker.
  • I try to follow the Trim Healthy Mama meal plan.
  • The rest of the kids thankfully can eat whatever they want.

Can you say complicated?

While I do a lot more cooking than I would if everyone could just eat the same things, I have a few strategies to keep it as efficient as possible.

  • I serve one large dish that (almost) everyone can eat. This might be a big salad with chicken or homemade spaghetti sauce with 2 batches of pasta (GF and regular) or even homemade steak fries. Then 1-3 side dishes are available and people pick and choose what works for their needs.
  • I serve “customizable” meals (build your own potato bar, tacos, burgers, etc.) That way, everyone picks what he likes and everyone is happy.
  • While I offer a starch at most meals, I usually skip it and eat extra veggies to avoid a carb overload.
  • When I’m baking gluten free goodies, I usually freeze at least half of what I bake for another day. I don’t do this as much with non-GF things because my big kids will just eat them that much faster 🙂 Plus, my 12 year old is quickly becoming the family baker so I can often leave the baking to him.

I’m working on even more savings.

I’m working through Erin Chase’s Grocery Budget Makeover course – such good stuff here! Enrollment is currently closed but you can sign up for her waitlist here. I hope to get our grocery budget down to $1000 a month (down from $1100-$1200 a month). I’m only 10 days into the course so it’s a bit too soon to report my results but I like what I’m learning.

Whew – that was a lot of information!

Hopefully some of these tips have been helpful to you as you feed your own hungry boys (or girls)!

Recap of these money-saving tips

  1. Stay out of the grocery store! Limit your shopping.
  2. Make a meal plan. See the Feed Your Family Planner for help.
  3. Serve salad or veggies first
  4. Keep those kids hydrated!
  5. Do not cook kids their own separate meals
  6. Cook in bulk. Try $5 Dinners Freezer Cooking plans
  7. Use inexpensive ingredients as the base of your meal as taught in Feed Your Family Fast
  8. Make sure you use up all your leftovers
  9. Grow a vegetable garden
  10. Get those kids working in the kitchen. Check out the Kids Cook Real Food e-course for help.
  11. Put some food out of sight or off limits
  12. Speaking of convenience snacks, the fewer the better
  13. Tell them to stop eating
  14. Serve dinner right after school (the European model)
  15. Use the Ibotta app if you want an alternative to coupons

What are your favorite tips to save money on groceries?

4K Shares

It goes without saying that a large family is going to need a lot of food to keep it going. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming.

Food prices continue to go up.

It can feel like a losing battle, especially when you have many people in the house.

I’ve found though, of all the budget categories, the grocery budget is always the one that is most flexible and is the easiest place to trim.

And if you are like me, you don’t want to sacrifice the quality of your food to save a couple bucks.

We love real food, so finding ways to save means we still need to be able to buy real food.

Here are some tips that I use to help control our food budget every month.

Grocery Saving Tips For Large Families

Buy on sale

The best way to save money on groceries is to not pay full price for them. Buying items that are on sale, marked down, or with a coupon is the best way to save money. This does require some work and planning beforehand, especially if you use coupons (I don’t).

Around here all our new sales for the week start on Wednesday’s. I check to see what is on sale for grocery shopping on Friday.

You can also ask your stores when they mark things, such as meat, down. This could be a great way to get meat cheaper and more of it.

I know matching sales with coupons is a great way to save, so if that’s something you can do you totally should. We already don’t get the paper so I would have to get it for the coupon inserts. I found when we did do this, most of the coupons were for foods I don’t buy so it didn’t end up being worth it for us.

Build a stockpile

When items you use are on sale if you have room in your budget, stock up. This is one of my favorite ways to save money and always have what I need in the house. Even if you can only buy a few extra it can make a difference.

Meat is always a big one for us. Anytime chicken breasts are below $2.00/lb I always get extra because we eat a lot of chicken. Same with ground beef. We have a grocery store near us that will have 10lb tubes of 93% lean ground beef for 2.99/lb. ←-that’s an amazing price!

So I buy the tube divide it up how I want, stick them in Ziploc bags and I have cheap meat stocked in my freezer ready to go.

Sometimes I will even cook a bunch up at a time and then freeze. That makes it easier for cooking when I don’t have a lot of time.

Buy big

I remember in a consumer class in high school learning about price per unit and stuff like that when reading prices at the store. Who knew that would be necessary when having a large family?

Here’s what this means. Bigger packages of things, like peanut butter or salad dressing, can actually cost less per pound or ounce when you buy the bigger package versus a smaller package.

Now yes the bigger package will cost more because there is more, but you could actually be paying less over how much you’re actually going to use.

Like it would be more expensive to buy two smaller packages than a bigger one (potentially). So start looking at price labels to see if you could save some money by buying bigger packages (only if you would actually use all of what’s in the package).

Meal plan

Meal planning is one of the easiest ways to save money on groceries. It allows you to know exactly what you need to buy to use during the week (or however long your plan is).

This cuts down on buying food that doesn’t contribute to any meal and ends up not being used or going bad.

Meals plans also allow you to cut down on convenience food that is more expensive because you need something quick.

I go in spurts with meal planning. Some weeks I’m really good at it and other weeks I’m at the store every couple days trying to figure out what we are going to eat.

I definitely feel less stressed when I have a meal plan and know what’s going to be for dinner every night.

Buy at Aldi or other discount stores

For the longest time, I didn’t know what Aldi was. I had never seen or heard of one until I moved to Iowa and didn’t even know what the store was. A friend took me once and it was still years later before I actually started going myself. Now my primary store to shop at is Aldi.

Aldi is a discount grocery store. They have their own brand of products, although sometimes they do have name brand stuff as well. Because of their business model they are able to offer lower priced groceries.

This is another great way to save money on groceries. It’s like a store full of sale items. I am constantly amazed at how much food I leave with when I go.

If you don’t have an Aldi in your area, see if there are other kinds of discount grocery stores. If you meal plan out far enough you could also just go to Aldi every two weeks or once a month if it’s farther away, then hopefully the trip would pay for itself.

Use Apps

So maybe you aren’t into coupons, but there are a number of apps that can help you save money.

Start by seeing if your grocery store has an app. One of our stores in town does and every week they have a super deal coupon to use. Since it’s on the app, they can just scan or punch in the number from my phone and I don’t have to worry about trying to track and find coupons.

Checkout 51 and Ibotta allow you to earn cash back. You can also check out this post on grocery saving apps to find even more.

Using the apps are a simple way to get some cash back and save money. Most likely you are already going to the store with your smartphone, so there won’t be a lot of extra work.

Saving Money on Groceries

Saving money on groceries is definitely possible even when you have a large family. It can seem like we are always going to be spending a lot because we have to buy so much. While we will have to spend more than most, it doesn’t mean we can’t be smart about it and look for ways to save money.

If you aren’t doing any of these things, start with one and get good at it.

I would suggest meal planning as that will probably have the biggest effect right away.

When you have that down, start moving on to the other tips. It will be totally overwhelming if you try them all at once. Start with one, make it a habit, and then add a new one to your grocery buying routine.

Shopping sales and meal planning around sales, buying bigger packages, using apps and shopping at discount stores such as Aldi are great ways to help your budget when it comes to groceries. They may not all work for you, but find the ones that do and stick to them.

Save these tips for later!

What are your favorite grocery saving tips?

The Ultimate List of Tips and Tricks for Large Family Grocery Shopping

Large Family Grocery Shopping

It’s no secret that we chat often about large family grocery shopping here on Large Family Table and on the YouTube channel. Over the years I’ve come to enjoy the planning, shopping, organizing, and cooking that goes into large family food. We large family moms might as well enjoy it since feeding all these people is such a big part of our everyday life.

Here’s a compiled a list of well over 50+ ultimate tips and tricks for large family grocery shopping from several moms of many. No matter your budget, family size, and time management needs you are sure to find helps listed below to feed your particular herd of people. You’ll also find over 10 popular large family grocery hauls, several large family meals plans, and more!

From my Instagram from 2013, “Large family grocery shopping. In our defense, most of this is for an entire month. And forgot to take out the wagon, oops!!”

1. 15 Frugal Tips for Feeding a Large Family

This mom feeds her family of 8 for just $250 a month!

2. Feed a Large Family on $10 a Day with a 14-Day Rotating Meal Plan

This family spends only $3 per person, per meal.

3. 9 Tips for Feeding Your Large Family

Sarah is another Aldi loving mama!

4. How I Feed a Family of Seven for $300 a Month

Another amazing mama with a meal plan.

5. 14 Ways To Nourish A Large Family On A Small Budget

Nutrition doesn’t have to suffer on a tight budget!

6. Large Family Logistics: Real Food on a Budget

This mom gives some helpful tips while stressing to not be too hard on yourself.

7. How to Feed a Big Family Without Breaking the Bank

This mother of 7 saves on real food and avoids processed meals.

8. Feeding a Large Family on a Budget

This mom buys produce in season, buys generic brands, and more.

9. How to Feed a Large Family on a Budget

Learn more about salvage stores from this family.

10. How to Feed a Large Family on a Small Budget

10 helpful tips from a large family mother.

“This is what a “quick” run into the store trip looks like in my world, LOL! You too?” From my Instagram in 2015.

11. How to Feed Your Family on a Tight Budget

7 simple tips for a smaller grocery bill.

12. Secrets of feeding a Large Family

Save by keeping these staples in your pantry.

13. How I Feed My Family of 7 for $400 per Month | Feeding a Big Family for $400 per Month on Money Saving Mom + More FAQ’s. Master the art of once a month grocery shopping.

14. Large Family Budget Friendly Meal Plan

This mom’s budget got out of control before she learned how to conquer it.

15. Large Family Meal Planning & Grocery Shopping

This mom’s level of organization is inspiring.

16. Feeding a Family of 8 on $500 a month

The cash envelope system is one reason for this family’s budget success.

17. Feeding a Family on a Budget – How I Feed My Family of 6 on $200 a Month

This mom saves big bucks without coupons.

18. 7 Things We Stopped Buying & Started Making Homemade to Save Money

Save money on staples by making these things at home.

19. How to Use Amazon Prime Pantry to Save Money On Groceries

Learn more about how to save with Amazon Prime Pantry

20. What I Would Feed my Family on a Monthly Budget of $250

A helpful grocery list and meal plan.

21. How to Feed a Large Family on a Skinny Budget

8 Frugal Tips or a Smaller Grocery Budget

In July 2015 I shared, ” I ran into @walmart today after my Dr appt and all these fruits and veggies fell into my cart.”

22. How to Cook Nourishing Food for a Large Family

“Stretcher recipes” and more tips for keeping your large family full.

23. Feeding Large Families Without Breaking the Bank

Practical advice plus recipes.

24. How We Eat Out for Less than $30 for a Family of 7

10 Tips for Saving Money at Restaurants.

25. A week of family dinners for $50

These recipes are for a family of four. Double for a weekly budget of $100 for a family of eight.

26. How To Feed A Family Of 4 Off $50 A Week

One tip this mom shares is to use what you already have!

27. Feeding a large family on vacation

You don’t have to spend a fortune on food while on vacation.

28. Meal Plans, Grocery Shopping, and a Large Family

This family of 12 knows the ropes when it comes to large family shopping.

29. Feeding a Large Family Healthy Meals on a Budget

This mom has a few tips including “buy the cow”.

30. Tips for Feeding a Large Family on a Budget

Several moms share their biggest tips in this post.

From January 2017, before late pregnancy took over my mind and ability to walk a crossed the kitchen, I shared, “FINALLY filmed a brand new #LargeFamilyGroceryShopping Haul that’s a big part #TrimHealthyMama to boot. It’ll be out in a few days including our 7-day meal plan! I came in at $200.59 from @aldiusa for our family of nine which includes 21 meals plus healthy snacks for our herd who EAT including teen boys, a hormonal pregnant lady ?, lots of growing kiddos, and a 6 foot 6 husband!” If you’re looking for this actual grocery haul I have many of my most popular hauls listed below.

31. How to Feed a Large Family with Real Food

This family makes their own snacks and kitchen staples.

32. Tips on Keeping the Food Budget

This mom has some practical tips and also recommends a program called Grocery University.

33. Dinner organizing advice from 10 large families

Great advice from veteran large family moms.

34. Our Meal Plan for the Week

Take a peek at one mom’s meal plan.

35. How to Feed a Large Family Healthy Meals on a Budget

Like many other families, this mom recommends cutting back on meat.

36. How To Feed A Big Family On A Budget

This mom doesn’t let anything go to waste.

37. $20 Grocery Budget To Feed Your Family When You are Broke

This post doesn’t say how many people $20 will feed but has great advice for cheap meals.

38. Feeding the Multitudes (Large Family Hospitality)

This mom grew up in a large family and has a heart for feeding big crowds. It’s all about good planning! Can we all agree that this mom is an expert? I shared this picture of Daniel in an overflowing cart of food right before our big move, ” Daniel and I went into @walmart for just a “small list”. I really want to do a pantry challenge before we move. Yet here’s my baby lost in a cart of food and supplies.” If feeding your family organic food is important to you, don’t miss this one. This mom understands the unique challenges of budgeting for a large family. More practical tips. Put the kids to work! This mom has learned to work on a tight budget all over the world. Whole Foods can be really expensive but this mom has a system for staying on budget. 47. Feeding a Group on Vacation Really great and detailed tips for how to figure out your food budget for a vacation. More tried and true tips from a large family veteran. Ever heard of being a “Flexitarian”? That’s one of 20 practical tips in this article. This mom sticks to a strict budget AND uses a rebate app. Find out how sticking to taking cash only to the grocery store and save big time! Are you interested at peeking at another family’s large family grocery budget? Check out this breakdown and see if you can pick up a few more tips to make it work for you. Here are a few rants on how weekly grocery shopping doesn’t work too well in my world. Some seasons it happens. I function much better planning and getting it all done at one time if possible. 54. Large Family Pantry, Refrigerator, and Freezer Tour and UPDATED Large Family Refrigerators, Freezers, and Pantry Tour! (Organized by the Kids, lol!) Looking for ideas on how to store all the large family groceries? The two posts listed above should give you some great ideas! The above picture is from my Instagram, “Oh yes I did! Check out my huge @aldiusa & @walmart#largefamily#onceamonthgroceryshopping haul! It’s now published on YouTube + Large Family 4-Week Meal Plan on the blog!”

12 Popular Large Family Grocery Shopping Hauls

  • February Once-a-Month Grocery Shopping Haul + a Tour of my Refrigerators & Freezers!
  • Large Family Style Walmart Grocery Ordering Pickup Haul – Price Breakdown of Shopping List Included
  • Large Family $336 Two Week ALDI Grocery Shopping Haul | Life is Crazy Edition – Teamwork makes the dream work since we have a lot of life going on right now!
  • $3.51 Daily Per Person ALDI Grocery Shopping Haul | Hormonal, Exhausted, Pregnant Lady Edition!
  • Two Week BIG FAMILY of 9+ Grocery Shopping Haul (Only $3.17 per person per day!)

My first ever large family grocery shopping haul report from 2015

  • Large Family ALDI Trim Healthy Mama Grocery Haul | Plus, One Week Large Family Meal Plan!
  • ALDI Grocery Shopping Haul for Two Weeks + Large Family Dinner Meal Plan
  • Large Family Grocery Shopping Haul GONE WRONG! It happens!
  • Once-a-Month Grocery Shopping Fill-in Aldi Haul (Extra Fruits, Veggies, Etcs) $200/Family of Nine
  • HUGE Large Family $620 Once-A-Month Grocery Shopping Haul! $17.22 per person/per week!
  • One Week Grocery Shopping Haul for Our Large Family {August 2015} – this haul also included extra meat for making several slow cooker meals for the freezer.
  • Once a Month Grocery Shopping Haul for Our Large Family – including two videos, shopping at Costco and Sharp Shopper, plus more.

Large Family Meal Plan: 4-Weeks, 90 Family Meals, 60 Snacks, Recipes, and Helps!

Please share your ultimate large family grocery shopping tips and tricks in the comments below! I’d love to read your creative ideas. Let’s chat in those comments. If you have a large family grocery shopping blog post you’d like added to the above list please leave that below as well.

Help meal time go smoothly at your house with the free family meal planner collection!

Enjoy this set of beautiful weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly meal planners. Also included are bonus grocery shopping lists and helpful recipe cards.

If these millennials can save $100,000 — how easy is it for you to do it too?

The most fortunate young Americans are ahead of their older peers when they were their age.

A sizeable number have seen a savings bump in recent years. One quarter of millennials have $100,000 or more in savings, up from 16% two years ago, according to Bank of America’s BAC, -1.94% “Better Money Habits” report, which surveyed nearly 2,000 millennials aged 24 to 41. The bank asked about the total amount of savings, including bank savings/checking accounts, IRA, 401(k) and other retirement or investment accounts.

Their recipe for this six-figure success? A 10-year bull market, uninterrupted employment, good benefits and good timing.

Many millennials also arrived onto the jobs market during or in the immediate aftermath of the Great Recession. The jobs environment is getting rosier, at least judging by the latest jobs figures. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.5% in December and remained near a 50-year low. The labor force participation rate was 63.2% in December, unchanged from the previous month, helped by an increase in women aged 25 to 34 looking for work and/or getting jobs.

That’s an encouraging improvement for this struggling generation, according to the survey. Millennials are saddled with record student-loan debt of $1.5 trillion and many have a hard time affording a first house. In 2015, only 8% of millennials said they had $100,000 or more stashed away for a rainy day. Millennials are also just as likely to budget than both Generation X-ers and baby boomers, the study also found.

However, despite their savings, more than half of all millennials say they feel behind financially compared to where they thought they would be, and another 33% feel financially behind their peers. On average, the millennials in the survey said they started saving for retirement at age 24, earlier than both Generation X (30 years old) and baby boomers (33 years old). What’s more, to truly feel financially secure more than a quarter (26%) say they need $1 million or more.

Don’t miss: The No. 1 job in America with ‘NO experience necessary’ pays $100,000 a year — and it’s not in Silicon Valley

“Older millennials are more secure when it comes to their savings, but many others across this broad age-range still struggle to save at all,” said Andrew Plepler, global head of Environmental, Social and Governance at Bank of America. “Debt remains a pressing challenge with competing pressures making it hard for people to feel financially secure.” He added, “Millennials are facing a difficult financial balancing act.”

This age group has competition from younger cohorts, however. A separate study from credit bureau TransUnion TRU, -1.71% looked at the credit profile of Generation Z, those born in or after 1995. Among those Gen Zers who have already reached adulthood in the U.S., 66% have some sort of loan product. There’s evidence that members of Generation Z, who came of age after the Great Recession, are also having an easier time paying off their debt than millennials did at their age.

Millennials, previous studies suggest, have fewer responsibilities than their older counterparts. They are more likely to rent than own property and, unlike their parents and older siblings, are less likely to have kids. They spend more than an average of $2,300 per year than older generations on five key items: groceries, gas, restaurants, coffee and cell phone bills, according to personal-finance site Bankrate. And they spend $233 per month on meals versus $182 for older generations.

They also have bigger problems. They shoulder more student-loan debt than any other generation and face house prices that are far higher than their parents did at their age in a post-recession environment of stagnant wages. Student-loan debt has reached $1.3 trillion as the cost of college has soared. And spending no more than 30% of their income on rent or a mortgage, a golden rule for decades, is now almost impossible for many young Americans.

(Jacob Passy contributed to this report.)

Quentin Fottrell

Quentin Fottrell is MarketWatch’s personal-finance editor and The Moneyist columnist for MarketWatch. You can follow him on Twitter @quantanamo.

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