January is often a time when you people are struggling to bring their budgets back in line. One easy way to do this is by eating well but lowering the amount you spend on groceries, and it’s easy to feed a family on $75 per week. To demonstrate, I’m going to share a week of actual meals we ate, with a grocery list and links to the recipes. This fed our family of five plus assorted guests with leftovers for lunches.
A few ideas that you may want to consider, especially if you’re going to need to eat at this budget level for a while due to a layoff or other financial issue:
- Many towns allow you to keep hens. You can buy ready-to-lay hens for as low as $4 or $5 per hen and have fresh eggs every day. The feed costs for 6 hens is roughly the same as what you pay for grocery store eggs and the home-laid variety are so much better! It’s worth inquiring within your municipality. If you get a yes, you can try posting on Craigslist for hens…..often people are willing to share for free or next to nothing. You can also learn how to “cull” older hens that are no longer laying for soups and casseroles.
- You can grow spinach and sprout your own peas or alfalfa in any sunny window. Seeds are $1 or less and you can have fresh greens constantly. They also thrive on benign neglect and pack a nutritional wallop – my kind of plants!
- These are meatless meals because meat is outrageously expensive on our island. That said, most of these would be just as good with meat added if you have a family that prefers it. Add another $5 to your budget each week for ground beef or chicken and you can add it to any of these suppers.
Watching for sales gives you great variety as well. Pick up cheese when it hits rock-bottom prices (grate and freeze), add fresh fruit instead of frozen in season, use different veggies to make the same recipes as the week before……..there are lots of ways to eat healthily and with good variety at this budget level and without feeling like you’re sacrificing. You will also have extra staple items left from the previous week a lot of the time, so eventually you can alternate between them from your stash of extras. So while last week I bought a big bag of rice, this week I’m buying pasta which is on sale for .99 a bag.
This meal plan is a good example of what we eat, but it’s not a complete list. We switch depending on the season, time available, and what we already have in the pantry. It’s meant to inspire you to get creative but never to constrict you. Lunches are almost always leftovers from the night before with the addition of fresh warm rolls, rice under leftover soup, dumplings to watery soup, a can of diced tomatoes to change the flavor of something…..you get the idea. All prices are in Canadian dollars, so friends in the U.S. may do better on their grocery costs! We’re also paying higher prices because of additional fuel to get food to the grocery stores on our island.
Ok, here’s how we feed a family on $75 per week:
Homemade cheese pizza (use tomato paste mixed with 1-2 tsp Italian herbs for the sauce), Coconut chickpea curry with rice (just skip the veggies you don’t have and it’s just as delicious), Veggie and bean crockpot soup ( I make my own broth – adapt to make it with what you have available), Bean burritos, Stir fry with rice (whatever veggies I have left and homemade Teriyaki sauce), Black beans and rice casserole, vegetable chili (this one, with extra beans and no beef).
Banana bread, Green berry smoothies (mix orange juice and about 2 big handfuls of spinach in the blender until well blended. Add 2 cups frozen berries and mix until smooth.), oatmeal with berries, muffins (substitute frozen berries for fresh in this recipe), cinnamon buns, breakfast cookies, Crepes with fruit and syrup, popcorn (we pop it ourselves.)
We baked our own
The grocery list:
Eggs, 1 dozen $3
Coconut milk $2
Orange juice, 3 cans frozen concentrate: $3
Frozen fruit, a nice big bag of mixed berries $6
Bananas, a good sized bunch, roughly 8 or 9 of them $3
Celery, 2 heads $3
Carrots 5 lb bag $3
1 green pepper $1
Spinach leaves $3 (about 8 cups’ worth)
Yellow onions, 5 lb bag $2
10 cans beans (red kidney, black beans, chickpeas, white kidney) $10
3 cans diced tomatoes about 3 cups each $3
Tomato paste, 2 small cans $2
Flour, 10 lb bag $5
Big bag brown rice $5
Oats, 5 lb bag $5
Popping corn $2
Yeast, bought in bulk, about 10 tbsp $2
You’ll notice that the list doesn’t include things like butter, soap, toilet paper, peanut butter, or dog food. That’s because I picked some up on sale the week before and stashed them in the pantry. Other weeks I might not need cinnamon or rice or spinach or whatever, so the grocery budget remains roughly the same. We do try to keep a little extra when we can for those can’t-miss-it sales on PB and the like and stash extras in the pantry. If the $75 is your absolute top limit, you may have to skip the cheese that week or use less beans to make it work. I’ve been there!
You’ll also notice that this doesn’t include pop, chips, and other empty calories . We do occasionally eat them, but it’s rare and comes out of a teeny tiny “junk food” fund I keep separately. I prefer to go for nutritious, filling food as much as possible because my kids all have hollow legs and chips can disappear in 5 minutes only to find them rummaging in the fridge 10 minutes later. It’s just not worth it when the same $3 for the bag of chips could buy a week’s worth of popcorn kernels which is way more filling and better for them to boot.
What are your go-to meals to keep your food budget down? Please share!