Here’s How a Family of 6 Slashed 80% From Its Food Budget

Slow cooker recipes
Credit: corners74/Getty Images

You know how it goes: You worked hard all day, and your partner did, too. But you dread going home.

It’s not that you don’t miss your family; rather, this feeling is due to your lack of dinner planning.

You now have two choices: eat out and blow your food budget, or destroy the kitchen by cooking something at home (while you’re exhausted).

This used to be me. I was tired and spending way too much money on food: about $1,000 a month for a family of three back in 2010.

And it’s not like we could afford it. We were deep in debt and running a deficit in our budget every month.

That’s when I made some serious changes and started using dump recipes to save my budget and my sanity! They allowed me to decrease our food costs from $1,000 a month to $200!

Six years later, our family has grown to six, but we still rely on dump recipes to keep our food budget as low as possible.

So, What are Dump Recipes?

First things first: Dump recipes are recipes where you simply throw all the ingredients together in a baking pan or slow cooker, then cook them all together.

No pre-cooking. No using multiple pots and pans. Super easy. My favorites are slow cooker recipes.

When I first tried to slash my grocery bill, I got crazy about saving money on food. I’d shop sales and double up the savings with coupons, but I’d still have to base my cooking plans on what I bought.

Then, I started preparing dump recipes, which can be as easy as tossing three chicken breasts (that I bought on sale) and a half bottle of barbeque sauce (that I also got on sale and purchased using a coupon) in the slow cooker.

Often, dump dinners only cost us $3 or $4 total and provide my husband and me two days worth of leftovers for lunch. They made a HUGE impact on our monthly spending.

For someone like me, who doesn’t really like to cook (and I used to really be bad at it, too), it’s amazing. You don’t even need to know how to cook.

My savings from dump recipes are threefold:

1. I Significantly Reduce Food Waste

Don’t lie… How much food do you end up throwing in the garbage every month? Remember that asparagus you bought because you were planning on serving it with chicken piccata? You didn’t exactly get to it, so it went in the trash.

Food wasted is money wasted. And you’re not alone: The average American family of four wastes up to $2,275 a year on food!

Dump recipes significantly reduce this. Why? Because I am ACTUALLY able to follow my meal plan each week. If I plan out seven meals to make for the week and grocery shop accordingly, I’ll follow through and make all seven slow cooker recipes.

I’ll use exactly what I buy — every single piece of meat and every vegetable. They go in the slow cooker before work, and I don’t have to worry about the end-of-the-day craziness of getting food on the table.

2. I Avoid Ordering Last-Minute Takeout for Dinner

My previous food budget of $1,000 a month included about $300 of eating out and ordering takeout. That’s not too far from the $250 per month the average American family spends on food prepared outside the home.

Since I’m actually making all the meals I shop for, I rarely make unplanned trips to restaurants or takeout orders. The feeling of panic I described earlier? It simply doesn’t happen to me anymore.

I’ve got nothing against restaurants, but I’d rather spend my money at them when I want to — not because I’m exhausted and in a panic to feed my family.

3. I Have Lunch for the Next Day

With dump recipes, it’s super easy to make big batches of food. I usually make more than my family needs. When my husband goes to work, he always has some amazing leftovers with him. So he NEVER has to go out to eat for lunch.

Before I cooked this way, he would go out for lunch about three times a week. At $8 to $10 a pop, that’s over $100 a month.

Do You Want to Dump up to 80% of Your Food Budget? Start Here

Between shopping sales, hardly wasting any food, not going out to eat and having leftovers for lunches, I reduced my monthly food budget by $800.

If you want to do it too, I’ve got an awesome recipe to share with you right here! Trust me: This one is super easy and super good! It will take you about five to 10 minutes to put together; then, just let it cook all day on low.

slow cooker recipes
Photo credit: Lauren Greutman

Verde Chicken


  • 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Juice from 1 large lime (1 to 2 tablespoons)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed (or 1 tablespoon jarred minced garlic)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro (measured prior to chopping), chopped finely
  • 12 ounces green tomatillo salsa


1.  Place chicken thighs in the bottom of the slow cooker.

2. Add all other ingredients on top.

3. Cook on high for four hours (or medium for six, low for eight)

4. Break apart chicken and serve however you’d like (in tortillas, over rice, with tortilla chips).

5. OPTIONAL: Dump all ingredients in a gallon zip-close bag and freeze for later.

Your Turn: How have you slashed time and money from preparing meals for your family?

Lauren Greutman is the author of and the best-selling book, “The Recovering Spender,” and a national media personality. Lauren helps busy moms create financial freedom for their families by sharing simple, easy ways to take back control of their money.

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