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How To Feed a Family on $80 a Week
A recent question from a reader leapt off the screen and sent my mind into hyper-saving mode.
Kaye wrote: "Do you think it's possible for me to feed my family of five on a grocery budget of $80 per week? This amount will have to include laundry detergent and toiletries, too. Actually, no matter what the answer is I definitely have to make it happen. My husband and I just reworked our budget. That's what I have to spend. Period. I just need encouragement."
Kaye, I believe it's possible for you to come in at less than $80 a week if you're highly motivated and willing to step out of your comfort zone to make it happen. Here's what you need to do:
—Use cash only. You'll have a difficult time staying within your budget if you take your checkbook or debit card to the store. Take cash only, no other payment option, and you will become a different kind of shopper.
—Buy what's on sale. If it's full price, you cannot afford it. That means you need to get familiar with weekly sales ads for the stores in your area so you can create a shopping list before you leave home. The free Web sites MyGroceryDeals.com and CouponMom.com do a good job of posting current sales at supermarkets across the country, but no one does it better than TheGroceryGame.com, which is a subscription Web site (about $1.25 per week, paid every 10 weeks).
—Use alternative sources. Check your local dollar stores for produce and canned goods. Mine carries great produce, although the selection changes often. Still, I routinely find potatoes and bananas, both 3 pounds for 99 cents.
—Cook from scratch. Stay away from preprocessed foods. You don't have enough money to buy cookies, snacks or frozen meals. You can learn to make all of those things yourself. Check this column's archives at http://www.DebtProofLiving.com for many recipes, including how to make bread in only five minutes a day.
—Make $5 dinners. There's a new trend taking hold that is quite remarkable, given the way food costs have soared in this country. The idea is to make an entire dinner for your family for only $5. It can be done, provided you are willing to control portions and plan ahead. Check out http://www.5DollarDinners.com for inspiration, encouragement, shopping tips and recipes for $5 dinners.
A recent post on my blog, http://www.MoneyRulesDebtStinks.com, "The Incredible Cost of Food," brought a huge response from readers for how to feed a family on a tight budget. You will find a treasure-trove of hints, tips and tricks for how you can stick to your $80-a-week budget. When you get to the blog, type "incredible" into the search box. While you're there, look around. You're going to meet a new set of friends and learn more ways not to spend money in the process!
Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com and author of 18 books, including her latest, "Can I Pay My Credit Card Bill With a Credit Card?" You can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2135, Paramount, CA 90723. To find out more about Mary Hunt and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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