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badice.com ~ travel musings for the masses

With the economy heading nose first for the pavement there has been an increase in stories about people feeding their families on the cheap. One story last week discussed a family of five living on $100 worth of groceries a month. The family bought a lot of canned goods, frozen vegetables, and stocked up on meats when they were cheap. On the surface there is nothing wrong with this, but when health and sustenance are taken into account, the family’s plan does not sound so great.

A Google search for multiple terms did not bring up the exact story but something that did pop up was an eHow article titled “How to Spend $100 on Groceries and Eat Well For a Month“. It is basically a shopping list for an entire month and though it contains dried fruit, a majority of the items are heavily processed and/or salt heavy. By no means am I a doctor but the list looks like a terrible diet, there is barely any fiber, there is a ton of starch, and most of the starches are bleached white flower.

The family on television had a similar list and apparently shopping for so little money is becoming a trend. This leads me to my question, is sacrificing diet for cheap food a good idea? Are there not better things to knock-off of one’s budget to allow for more spending on food, a vital piece of life? I am not suggesting that everyone should be shopping at Whole Foods or upscale stores, I just think that what we feed our bodies should be more healthy than a loaf of white bread everyday.

The way that Jessica and I budget is that we figure around $80-$100 per week for food. We usually sit down one night and go through cookbooks and make a menu for the next week, the whole process takes 30-minutes. Jess writes down all of the ingredients and then compares that to what we have in the pantry and the fridge and marks things off that we already have. We then go to the grocery store together and buy as much as we can for as little as we can. Lately we have been looking at shopping at an extra store to get things that we know will be cheaper at one place, especially with meat products.

One glaring observation I have made from shopping with Jessica is that vegetables are cheap, as long as they are in season. The amount of green leafy vegetables that can be had at a low price is amazing and it does not end with them, there are tons of options ranging from avocados to leeks. Fruit is a little trickier but grapes and apples are usually available year-round and at a decent price.

The trick with all of this is to actually eat the food that is bought. Dinner is made every night and the leftovers are taken to work the next day by both of us. Some dinners last two or more lunches (soups and sandwiches). Doing the math, I figured that our daily cost for eating a meal is around $2 each. Now I am sure the families that eat on $100/month are down in the pennies per meal, but does that really matter when the meals are not necessarily healthy?

What do you think? How much do you spend a month on groceries?

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  1. Mary #
    February 25, 2009

    I’m glad you and Jessica plan your menu and shop together. As you know that has always been my job (unpaid). With a family there are different tastes and wishes, remember? What I do every Wednesday is go through the grocery sale papers then deciding what to fix or stock up on based on the sale. I also think eggs are a cheap protein to fix. I usually cook up (boil) the whole carton of eggs, then make tuna or chicken salad, a few deviled eggs and leave the rest in the shell to have during the week with salad. I will not skimp on bread; must be whole grain and/or whole wheat. Ice cream use to be in the house alot when ya’ll were at home, but now yogurt is a main staple. I could comment for awhile on this subject being that we have always been a “cheap” eating family compared to our friends and neighbors.

  2. Joanna #
    February 25, 2009

    I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I spend probably close to $500/month on food. That’s not all at the grocery store since I eat out a bunch, and It’s not unusual for me to randomly pop in at Whole Foods and spend $60 on my way home from work. Then there are the dinners at Flemings and such. It’s hard for me to cook regularly with my work and school schedule, and I’ll go 2 weeks without cooking at all. I stopped at the Kroger on 43rd tonight (the closest decent grocery store I’ve found) and spent $85. I did make dinner tonight, and I got stuff to make at least one more meal over the weekend since this week is my Friday off.

    I honestly have not adjusted my spending habits in response to the economy. Writing this out though makes me realize that it would probably be more prudent of me to start paying more attention to how I spend my money. I do buy mostly organic food. And generally speaking the brands at Whole Foods are not exactly cheap, but I really don’t pay close attention.

    I know there are ways to eat healthily and cheaply without the need for overly processed, starchy, salty foods. I think the big problem is the lack of nutritional education for most consumers.

  3. Mary #
    February 26, 2009

    Something I found very helpful for me when we were busy with you guys every night of the week was to take advantage of cooking the meals on Sunday. So if we had roast for our Sunday meal I would freeze the leftover meat and then serve it later in the week as chop beef bbq, or other creative ways. When the pit would be lit instead of cooking just that meals meat I would pull out other meat (sausage, hamburgers, pork chops, chicken, etc) and go ahead and cook them. Then place in freezer bags in portion size for the family and freeze. Pulling out the desired meat, reheat and serve a salad or steam vegetables. This method really saved me alot of time and money during the week. Another helpful hint is to buy meat in bulk (example: hamburger meat) go ahead and cook all of it and then place in freezer bags one pound portions. It is then ready for tacos, spaghetti (whole grain of course), chili, sloppy joes. It also helped that we had an extra freezer. I think what happens is that we see leftover meat in the frig and just toss it out instead of placing in the freezer and having at a later date. Like I said earlier we ate pretty cheap or thrifty compared to the norm. I find it interesting how now people are thinking about being “conservative” instead of wasteful. The reason I was able to stay home with my boys was because we conserved in many ways and did without certain things, it was and is a way of life. Would I trade staying home for all the frills? NO! I would cringe sometimes seeing the way people would waste food, go through paper towels, paper plates, etc. like there was no worries. What a waste! One last saving tip – want to stretch a paper dinner napkin is cut it in half. I would do this all the time before placing them on the table. Funny how some of our friends would snicker at us being so miserly! I wonder how they are adjusting today?

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