Hi! I'm Sydney. I'm a stay-at-home mom of three, and I make homemade meals for my Colorado family every week.
Although my current phase of life is a stay-at-home mom, I've also been a college student mom, and a full-time working mom — and each stage taught me valuable lessons around feeding myself and my family.
One of those lessons has been that meal prep and planning are essential for running a smooth household with three kids under 9. Figuring out all the meals ahead of time allows me to save time and stick to a budget each week. For a long time, that budget was $100 per week — but I've recently had to increase it to $120 due to everything being more expensive these days.
When planning each week, I start by looking at my local grocery store's weekly sales so I know what items will get me the most bang for my buck. This first step has become more important than ever to my planning and budgeting lately.
With meal planning, up-front preparation is key — but it's also the most challenging thing. Here are a few tips and tricks that I use each week:
Also, my kids are small! They do not have the same appetites as teenagers or fully-grown adults. I'm aware that my grocery budget will need to increase as they get older.
Lastly, I'm not a chef. I'm a mom who cooks meals for her family. I learn things as I go and pick recipes that seem manageable for me to keep up with — as I also try and be present with my family.
After making my plan for this week, my total sat at $123.93. I was able to save just over $5 from coupons, but the biggest savings came from utilizing the items that were featured in the sales flyer for the week.
Most weeks, I get my groceries delivered to save me time, gas, and impulse buys. (I also opt for delivery because if you've ever taken multiple young kids grocery shopping, you know the struggle!)
Thankfully, everything was in stock. I had a great shopper that communicated with me throughout the trip and picked out some quality produce! One lesson I've learned (a few times) with delivery is that you need to be so specific about the quantity you need. Sometimes, I assume if I put "1," it will mean 1 lb., but this backfired on me the other week when I received one (1) singular Brussels sprout.
As you continue to build your pantry, it's easier to spend within budget because you'll utilize staples you have already acquired. But for the purpose of this post, several pantry staples (like oats, flour, and rice) were included in the $123.93 I spent. The only staples I did not include were oils and spices.
Here was this week's grocery haul:
Here's how the week went!
I was able to pick up a rotisserie chicken for $5.99, and since I didn't shop until later in the afternoon, I was thankful to have a recipe that leaned on pre-made ingredients. I knew 7 Layer Chicken Burritos — with its base of rotisserie chicken and jarred salsa — were going to be the ticket to getting everything together with everyone's sanity in check.
The majority of this recipe was just adding salsa into different things, so to say things were pretty straightforward would be an understatement.
I always try to have some sort of independent activity ready for my kids while I'm cooking because otherwise, they decide to run in circles around the kitchen — which usually also includes stumbling over the dog waiting for any morsel to fall.
My son actually ended up being the only one that made his meal into a standard burrito, with everyone else opting for a burrito bowl!
We are in the phase of Colorado spring where it is switching between a snow blizzard and shorts weather every other day. After dinner, we took advantage of the sunshine and headed out for a sunset stroll.
Once the kids were in bed, I made some dough for two different sourdough loaves. One plain and one with cinnamon and dried cranberries. (The cinnamon recipe actually calls for raisins, but we love cranberries instead!)
Rise and shine — time to bake! The very first thing I did when I woke up was get my sourdough ready for the oven. I quickly made some hardboiled eggs in my air fryer for breakfast, and then everyone was able to have a slice of bread fresh out of the oven before heading off for the day.
While the bread was baking, I packed the kids' lunch boxes with leftover chicken burritos from the night before.
The day was spent trying to get as much physical activity in as possible and spend time outside because we were lucky to get another beautiful day.
Since things were going pretty leisurely, I decided it would be a good time to prepare some yogurt to have on hand for breakfasts and snacks for the week. My daughters love yogurt and will eat everything we have very quickly, which can be a real budget buster. So instead, I buy a small container of yogurt and some milk. Then I use the Instant Pot to heat, cool, and incubate the yogurt to make it grow into... more yogurt!
While the yogurt did its magic, I started preparing dinner. It's prime time for citrus right now in my area, which means excellent sales. Simple Orange Citrus Salad was the perfect meal to make on such a sunny day, and required minimal attention so I could also multitask the yogurt.
I was worried if I told the kids the blood oranges were actually called "blood oranges" that they would stop right there. Honestly, I can't blame them. I know if I heard "blood oranges" as a child, I would have been STRESSED.
After a nice, long incubation period, I finished off the yogurt by straining it into some storage containers. We ate a bit for breakfast with some fresh raspberries.
For lunch I used the leftover citrus salad, but needed something additional since the chicken was gone from the night before. I used a few of the hardboiled eggs and made a version of this egg salad sandwich.
I didn't want the leftover guacamole browning in the fridge for too long, so for dinner I chose taco potatoes. I was also able to use the remaining cheese I had already shredded from a few nights before as well.
There are two things my son will not eat: rice and potatoes. Usually, I always put a bit of everything on the kid plates so that they always have an opportunity to try things, but he has been very clear for long enough that he doesn't like them so I no longer serve him those things.
I knew the yogurt needed a little crunch, so I made up a batch of my favorite homemade granola. Being a nut-allergy household, granola is really something we have a hard time buying so this recipe for vanilla granola is a slam dunk.
Yogurt breakfast round 2 — this time with the ~crunch~.
Both of the school kids got DIY tacos for lunch, which turned out to be a hit! Both brought home boxes that were totally empty.
We had one more afternoon of sunny weather before a cold front moved in. We continued to take advantage of the warmer temps while we could.
Greek Chicken Kebabs were on my mind for dinner. Once I pulled out all the ingredients, I decided I would roast the chicken instead of grilling it on skewers, because although we've had a few nice days, I haven't actually gotten the grill ready for prime time after being buried under snow for a few months.
I cut up some tomatoes, cucumbers, and took out some store-bought tzatziki. You can actually make your own tzatziki very easily and pretty cheap, but sometimes, you need to consider your sanity as well! In the future, I would love to try this recipe with fresh herbs instead of dry.
I recently got the cookbook Meal Prep Magic by Catherine McCord, and when I saw this rice pudding recipe, I had to give it a try! Although the recipe I followed was from the book, there is a similar recipe here.
I certainly snuck a few bites while the rice pudding was still warm — and it instantly brought me back to my grandma giving us leftover rice with butter and cinnamon sugar on the top for dessert as a kid.
Lunch was a very quick leftover throw-together since I had a morning and afternoon filled with drop-offs, pick-ups, appointments, and very little wiggle room in terms of timing it all.
Once the chaos of mid-day was over, I wanted to make a quick snack. The rice pudding had me thinking of childhood treats I loved, and I remembered an at-home Orange Julius recipe we loved to make.
I left the sugar out of my rendition, and no one seemed to even notice!
I had a free window of time that afternoon — and decided to knock out a few prep-and-go meals for later in the week. First, I used my sourdough starter to make biscuits.
Then I made sheet pan eggs — a great option because the oven does all the hard work — and pulled out some Canadian bacon. My plan was to put everything together and make breakfast sandwiches.
Once dinner time rolled around, though, I was feeling a little ~over it~. I took a peek at my grocery inventory and what remaining recipes I had on my menu, and TBH, I really wasn't motivated to make any of it. I did a quick search on my phone and found a recipe for easy Lemon Spaghetti. It was perfect!
While the noodles boiled, I zested the lemon and made the sauce for the pasta.
Suddenly, 15 minutes had passed, and dinner was done!
Here's where those grab-and-go breakfast sandwiches came in handy!
Since I didn't have to do much in terms of breakfast preparation, I was able to bake up another loaf of cranberry sourdough.
We headed off to soccer for the rest of the morning!
This reminded me of a bulkier tomato soup lunch. I was happy to have made something that would stick around for awhile since I knew we would be eating dinner a couple hours later than our norm.
On Saturday night, my husband and I attended a charity event for congenital heart defects. We ate, we danced, and I won a ~glam girl~ tea party for my daughters in the silent auction!
Saturday morning breakfast was reheated breakfast sandwiches again — and then, we set out to plant some various seeds in a mini greenhouse that arrived for Easter earlier this month.
We were all lagging a bit after the late night before, so lunch was very simple with quesadillas for the kids and leftovers for mom and dad.
When it came time for dinner, I wanted to repurpose the leftover lemon pasta from Friday. I thought Chicken Garden Medley was the perfect recipe to help achieve this makeover.
I definitely used more vegetables than the recipe called for, but I'm someone who always thinks there could be more veggies.
In the end, I thought this dish was a little bland. I oftentimes feel cream-based dishes like this can be a little lackluster, but how do we know if we never try?!
While the rest of us ate breakfast sandwiches at home, my husband and daughter had donuts with Dad at school!
One good thing about saving my least favorite leftovers for the last meal of the week? It makes me extra excited to get a new week started. Instant motivation!
And that was my week! I hope this was helpful. Again, I don't share these plans assuming people will replicate them exactly. Every household is SO different — from palate preferences to cost of living to the amount of time available to cook. Still, I hope this provides some inspiration for new recipes, new planning ideas, or how to work with whatever your budget may be. You can find more of my articles with weeks worth of plans here!
For more, follow me on Instagram at @sydneyinsuburbia. That's where I give step-by-step breakdowns about how I plan my weeks, shop, and cook — hopefully helping you do it, too!
And one last takeaway: Never let anyone make you feel bad for making a budget. People create budgets for all different reasons — necessity, savings, student loans, retirement, investments — and it's something you can feel proud of. You got this!
Tell me what you're making for your family this week in the comments below, or DM me on Instagram!