Strategies for Eating on a Budget

Food BudgetSo, officially, we did three days of our Hunger Week challenge last week. Here are the results:

The Strategy:
I wanted to make our food healthy and filling, as well as inexpensive. A few rules for saving money, many of which we employ regularly.

  • Don’t rely on “white” food. Whole wheat pasta and white pasta costs roughly the same.
  • Rely on realistic and true portions. Americans have “supersized” our servings, especially when it comes to protein. A serving of protein is four ounces, about the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand.
  • Make one big meal on the weekend, another during the week and then strategically use the leftovers. In this case, I bought one meat item (pork), and then utilized the bones or the meat over three days into four or five meals. For the next round, we might use one whole chicken. While the initial investment is $5 to $6, we leveraged the full nutritional value, and using the meat as a flavor and extended it with vegetables and grains, such as beans or whole grain pasta.
  • Learn to make no knead bread. The dough can be made ahead and left in the fridge, and then quickly shaped into loaves. On average, a loaf costs about 50 cents.
  • Buy herbs and spices from a place from you can buy a small amount from a bulk supply. Sure, Italian herbs are $6.49 a pound, but they’re so light that an ounce equals three or four tablespoons and yet cost only 40 cents.
  • Learn to make stock. It’s cheap, and you can use stuff that you’d normally throw away (bits of carrots, onion skins, etc.) A homemade quart of chicken stock can be as little as 35 cents per quart.
  • Eat apples as snacks. By the bag, they’re inexpensive and the pectin keeps hunger at bay. (A good tip for weight loss, too.)

Staple groceries
This was about $30 for just under a week for two people, extended with some pantry items

1/2 doz. eggs (60 cents)
Carrots (69 cents a pound)
Yellow onions (five pounds $3)
Celery (69 cents a pound)
Potatoes (5 pounds for $2)
3 ½ pound picnic ham w/bone ($2.19 a pound)
Whole wheat wide noodles ($1.25 on sale)
Whole wheat linguine ($1.50 on sale)
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes ($2)
1 lb. zucchini (69 cents, on sale)
2 heads of garlic (45 cents)
1 lb. split peas ($1 on sale)
1 lb. black beans ($1 on sale)
1 ½ lbs. cabbage (59 cents a pound)
1 qt chicken stock (homemade, about 40 cents per quart)
Bay leaves (15 cents, bulk purchase)
Mixed Italian herbs (38 cents, bulk)
Red pepper flakes (28 cents)
½ pound of cheddar cheese ($3.99 lb. on sale, $2)
1 5 lb. bag apples ($3)
1 jar peanut butter ($1.60)
whole wheat tortillas (10 for $1.50)

Other staples: Whole wheat flour, white flour, yeast, olive oil, sugar, grape jelly, butter

Day 1:
Breakfast: Omelet w/cheese, toast made from homemade bread (70 cents per serving)
Lunch: Peanut butter and jelly sandwich (66 cents per serving)
Dinner: Braised pork with cabbage, tomatoes and potatoes ($1 per serving)

Day 2:
Breakfast: Toast with peanut butter, banana (40 cents per serving)
Lunch: Black beans with brown rice (68 cents per serving)
Dinner: Whole wheat pasta with tomatoes, olives and tuna (76 cents per serving)

Day 3:
Breakfast: Breakfast burrito with leftover pork, scrambled eggs and black beans (90 cents per serving)
Lunch: Grilled cheese sandwich (75 cents)
Dinner: Braised pork tacos with shredded cabbage, brown rice, black beans and tomatoes($1 per serving)

About katflinn

Kathleen Flinn is the author of "The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry," "The Kitchen Counter Cooking School" and "Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good." All are published by Viking/Penguin.

Comments

  1. I found this very interesting and useful information. I was intrigued by the shopping list. It made me realize that you can really make a lot of food if you work with staples. Thanks again.

  2. very informative posting. Thanks!

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