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How To Feed a Family on $80 a Week

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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.

Some gas station mini-marts sell milk at big discounts. If you have a farmers market close by, you'll find fresh produce at bargain rates right before closing.

—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 mary@everydaycheapskate.com, 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.

COPYRIGHT 2009 CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.



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4 Comments | Post Comment
Here's a few more Ideas: Go shopping every week. We have four boys that eat whenever there's food in the refrigerator. If we try to shop for two weeks, it'll be gone in one. Instead, we go shopping for one week at a time. Also, we have cut out all soda, juice, and bottled water. They drink water from the tap and milk. Get creative with your menu! Pasta is cheap. With a little homemade meat sauce, you can create a quick and inexpensive meal. Cook in bulk. Make up several pounds of chicken at once. Then freeze it into dinner-size portions. Slice some for lunchmeat and store in a plastic resealable bag. Buy storebrand of everything. They are just as good and go on sale more often. Go window-shopping at different stores with a list of your typical weekly groceries. Find out what they cost at different stores without actually buying them. Then, shop several different stores to buy everything you need. Dollar stores are great for toiletries and some food, but beware of food that has expired. We have a family of 6 including 3 teenagers and a younger son. We are able to keep our budget at about $100 to $120 a week.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Christie
Tue Jul 14, 2009 6:37 AM
My budget is a little bigger, about $50 a week for two people, but since I eat organic and mostly vegetarian I have to be extra smart about my shopping. One thing I didn't see mentioned here at all are BULK FOOD BINS.

You can find a ton of different food in these, nuts, grains, sugar, flour, salt, spices, cookies, candy, legumes, dried soup mix, even dog food and treats in some places like WINCO. Any product I buy that can be bought in bulk is. Sure it takes a little more prep time, especially if you need to soak beans or something, but isn't that what slow cookers are for?

I also will buy my tofu in giant bricks, cut it into cubes at home, and freeze it. I'm sure you could do something similar with meat. I make huge batches of chili and freeze it. Burritos are easy and cheap to make and freeze well. And about once a week I will make a huge indian dish with rice that I can just reheat in the toaster oven in tin foil and that is lunch/dinner for a few days.

I also have to limit my propane usage as well, but my electricity is included in my rent so I use my toaster oven and crock pots whenever I can.
Comment: #2
Posted by: stardoggedmoon
Sat Jul 18, 2009 11:33 AM
You may also want to check out e-mealz.com, they have weekly meals to follow
And the grocery list to follow. You can choose the store, the type of meals and how many people the list is for. I use the plan for 2 from walmart. The list is reasonably priced. Usually not more then $50 for me for the list of groceries. Its worth it to check it out.
Comment: #3
Posted by: angela
Mon Jul 5, 2010 5:26 PM
You may also want to check out e-mealz.com, they have weekly meals to follow
And the grocery list to follow. You can choose the store, the type of meals and how many people the list is for. I use the plan for 2 from walmart. The list is reasonably priced. Usually not more then $50 for me for the list of groceries. Its worth it to check it out.
Comment: #4
Posted by: angela
Mon Jul 5, 2010 5:26 PM
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