Frugal Living,  Musing,  Parenting

Living On A Tight Grocery Budget

Yesterday the Sunday Independent in Ireland carried 2 pieces about how a family of 5 (2 adults, 3 children) would struggle living on a tight grocery budget of €175 per week for groceries. As you may know, our budget is far lower. Here’s how we have been getting on since Friday and I’ll update this post again later on on the week.


I took out €90 for the week ahead. We needed a bin tag. Each bin lift is €8.75 which we get once a fortnight, less often if we jump on the bins.

Remaining Amount: €81.25

The 4 year old has been screaming in pain with his ear so I bring him to see the GP. Thank goodness and every last bit of luck for having a medical card due to a low household income. I didn’t have to pay for the GP. She recommends that he be referred as soon as possible to the local paediatric hospital for possible grommets, he has been struggling with his ears and deafness for a number of months. Both ears are bulging with pressure, she’s not sure it’s infected but gives me a prescription for him just in case he gets worse over the weekend to save me having to call an out of hours service. Trusting me with my judgement that I won’t give it to him unless he’s far worse, she says I should keep him topped up with alternating pain relief of infant paracetamol and neurofen. I get both in the chemist next door costing €14.50. I’m aware that sugarfree options are cheaper but it makes my children hyper so I opt for the more expensive medications.

Remaining Amount: €66.75

I have to pick up some essential lady supplies, I spend the best part of 10 minutes trying to figure out which is the best value in the long term. Cost €3.30.

Remaining Amount: €63.45


The 4 year old is running a temperature and I can’t seem to control it with pain relief so I decide to get the antibiotic. Dispensing a prescription on a medical card costs €1.50 per item. I buy it and guiltily look the other way when the counter assistant recommends that I get a probiotic to boost his immune system. It’s not in the budget so I’ll boost him with food instead. Still having the Mammy-guilts over that one.

Remaining Amount: €61.95

I need meat for the house for the week and I know that the budget is running low. I drop into the butcher and get a whole chicken, pound of minced beef and a pound of sausages. This meat will cover our main meals for more than 4 days. Cost: €12.99

Remaining Amount: €48.96

On the way home I walk into our local Supermarket. We need fresh bread, some supplies for lunches for the week, fruit and vegetables. Whatever I get I need to fit it on the buggy. I spy some golden syrup on special for 99c per tin. Dither over whether to get 2 or 3, not because of space in the shopping basket but whether it’ll tip my budget over the edge. I pick up a high quality cheese cake in the yellow sticker section for €2.95. I’m delighted with the treat but know I’ll have to pinch it elsewhere in the budget during the week. I come home with bread, milk, apples, bananas, onions, broccoli, raisins, salami, cheese cake, 2 tins of golden syrup, pasta, juice and sausage rolls also from the yellow sticker section. Edited to add: I just checked my receipt and this shop also contained a packet of dried coconut flakes, a box of tea & a toothbrush.Cost of shopping: €26.17.

Remaining Amount: €22.79


I have to make a trip to Drogheda. We have a dither moment as to whether to take the long way (which uses up more diesel) or to take the short way and pay the toll charges. We decide to pay the toll charges to save time and diesel costing €1.90 each way.

Remaining Amount: €18.99

Plan for the rest of the week:

I’ve enough money to get us more bread and milk during the week when we need it. Here’s hoping there are no major emergencies or unexpected expenses. My larder and fridge are full and I’ve meals planned for the week ahead. We will eat extremely well on what I have in the house and the kids will want for nothing.

Note: This is not a poor me post. I frequently always get asked with incredulity how we manage on such a tight budget. We do it because we have to. Yes it takes a bit of knowledge, skill and yes it is time consuming.

I'm an Irish mother to 2 boys, born & bred in Dublin, Ireland. I like to cook simple & fresh food for the family, with the family on a budget.


  • Minnie .

    We are a family of 4 and spend €100 a week on groceries, often less. I don’t even spend €175 at Christmas. We are €11 over threshold for a GP card and the last GP visit cost me €60 to see both kids and €71 for antibiotics and steriods for both, meaning we had ZERO for food that week. It’s so tough.

    • Wholesome Ireland

      Oh Minnie that is very tough. I know how difficult we would find it if we didn’t have a medical card. Like you say we would have zero for food on the weeks we had to visit the doctor without it. If I can suggest that you get your GP & Pharmacist to give you a printout of your costs for the last calendar year and submit them with a new application. If your income is that close to the limit, the bills might be the amount to tip it in the right direction.

  • Looking for Blue Sky

    My budget is not as tight, but I can’t imagine spending €175 a week for the 4 of us, and that’s with three fussy eaters. It would also be a lot less if we just drank tap water…

  • Laura Murray

    Thanks for this- i do something similar. I take out the cash at the start of the week and try to stick to it. It is still a process in the making- I haven’t prefected it yet but boping to get that bill down to €60 for the three of us.

  • MidlifeSinglemum

    Very inspiring post. I’m also trying to cut down on food expenses so I’m always on the look out for good tips.

  • Kim

    As a non-meat eater I find it much cheaper to east wholesome foods. You’d be amazed how long a bag of cous cous or polenta lasts. Aldi is great for cheap veg to go with it and even Super Valu are getting in on the act with loads of fruit and veg at 67c.

    • Wholesome Ireland

      Thanks Kim. We don’t eat meat everyday anyway. 🙂 For fruit & veg we do grow our own but are only getting started in a new allotment. Our meat for the week as you see above has cost €12.99 so it’s a relatively small portion of our food budget.

  • Kim

    Thanks for the reply. You’ve a great blog here. I appreciate you don’t eat much meat. I still buy some for the kids and can’t get over how expensive it is for the “good” stuff like free-range etc. I’d love to grow my own veg too. Must be so satisfying.

    • Wholesome Ireland

      It is a brilliant past time with the side benefit of saving money. Because we have an allotment it’s a community thing too. Very important in this day & age I feel. 🙂

  • Emer Cunningham

    great post. would love to hear how you translate the spend into meals for the week for you all. i am rubbish at meal planning and seem to throw out way too much food.

  • Trish Hannon

    No need for the mammy guilts, good quality food is far better than supplements any day. Great post and very inspiring. So many of us trying to make money streeeeetch now-a-days.

  • annreynolds

    I have started to take out the money once a week too for groceries but with a leaving cert student coming home nearly every day for more money re projects find it very hard to keep within the budget. Really do think schools need to buy more in bulk so that pupils can buy items from the school cheaper without having to drive miles to get item too.

    • Wholesome Ireland

      Oh Home Ec – the bane of my life. One of the recipes a few weeks ago called for nutmeg. So I gave the 13yo a whole nutmeg. The teacher decided they couldn’t use their graters for it and she was told not to put it into the recipe unless she had bought a jar of ground nutmeg. Honestly!

  • jenna @ thehoneymoonkitchen

    Just stumbled across your blog. I really admire your honesty and wisdom in regard to how to budget and spend your money wisely. Prudence is an invaluable skill to have, and not just during the current economic climate. Thank you for sharing this!

  • Shaye Walsh

    Hi! I wanted to know if you could email me back to discuss us possibly collaborating on something? Great read! Thanks so much!

    – Shaye

    shayewalsh1 (@) gmail (.) com

  • Martina

    Hi, love your website and blog, its so full of interesting information. I was wondering could you recommend cheap cuts of meat that i cut buy to stock up my freezer either for stews or for daily dinners. we love meat and poultry in our house so like to stock up every few months. all ideas would be great.

    • Wholesome Ireland

      Hi Martina & thanks for your kind words.
      When it comes to cheap cuts of meat, I’ve found that while you can buy cheaper cuts, they take longer to cook and more time to prepare so in the end cost near to the same as medium cuts. We normally use a lot of minced meat (beef, pork, lamb & turkey) as minced meat would be cheaper anyway. I also buy whole chickens because I’ll get 2 main meals and a load of stock from each bird. Cuts like stewing steak/meat can be cheap to buy but do bear in mind they will take longer cutting. It’s all something to think about!

  • Martina

    Thanks for that advise. I use alot of mince myself, bolognase, lasagne, mince and pasta, there is so many uses, its very versatile and yes we do eat alot of chicken also. I got such inspiration from your blog that on Saturday i spent the day cooking up dinners for the week – 2 lasagnes, 2 pots of soup (10 lunches made from that) and some lovely apple pudding. there was no much else to do on saturday with the weather. It was great to have been very organised for the week. so thank you for the blog.

  • Stay home mammy

    Just have to say I was after watching the uk program Superscrimpers and said I would have a look online and see if there was anything for Ireland. Came across your blog and have been comforted by it. I really love this post as I go through the same and look at it as a challenge but a good one. Im naturally competitive and so this drives me to do better each week. In the past 2 years I have gone from losing my job as a bookshop manager to a stay at home mum with a husband working for a company has been making redundancies over the last two years so things have been stressful about watching our pennies in case tomorrow, there are no more coming in.
    My tip is to look at the aldi website before I go grocery shopping and plan my meal plan around their super 6. This has cut my grocery bill significantly and I have a 7 month old and a 20 month old, both in nappies and one on formula. Love your free print outs.

  • LaneyM

    We are also a family of 5 & have recently started taking out cash for the food shop once a wk but as you so rightly pointed out, one emergency extra can throw things skewways in an instant ! It has def helped having the cash instead of using card but hard when money to be found for birthday presents, school supplies etc. also hard as I work 3 days so if we are not super organised, you find the money doesn’t go as far. I’m def taking inspiration from you; keep up the good work!

  • Martha

    Not entirely relevant but my son has had issues with his ears all his life 24yrs and had intermittant deafness as a child mostly in winter but has recently fixed it by putting ear wax from his good ear into his sore ear. I have no idea how or why it worked but after 24yrs he now has had no ear pain for over a year. Hope it works for your son too.

  • Niamh Gal

    What age are your children . You say larder is full how . With costs that low how is it full . Staples are so expensive. If family of 6 very fussy eaters and diary needs one guy dairy egg nut sul0her free . Another about to start low fod_ map diet and N9ther so fussy when it comes to f9od due to migraine and tummy pain . I would love a break down .my husband is 6 foot 3 and eats like a horse but very thin . I buy a lot of fresh fruit and veg .

    • Caitriona Redmond

      Full larder in this house is several kg of rice, pasta, couscous, tinned beans (several varieties), passata, frozen peas and sweetcorn, dried beans and pulses and dried fruit. I hope that helps.

  • Maria Shinners

    Love you post, makes me feel less alone. What i also do is keep all my meal plans on Excel and go back to them for ideas.
    I have pages for each kind of meat, and meat free, and school lunchbox and special treats and fancy food.
    I try to include a fancy meal (home made sushi, lasagna anything that takes a lot of effort or money) in each week, by going meat free maybe 2 other days.

    thanks for everyone that tries, and believe in these values. It great to pass on to our kids.

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