Food Budget: Eating on a Shoestring
“Worries go down better with soup.” – Jewish Proverb
Back in May, Ben McGrath at The New Yorker wrote about Eric Gioia, a city councilman from Queens and his Food Stamp Challenge. What’s the Food Stamp Challenge? According to McGrath, it’s eating only what someone could afford on a week’s worth of food stamps, or the equivalent of twenty-eight dollars.
He writes, “Here are the groceries that Gioia brought home from a Food Dynasty in Woodside: two loaves of white bread, six ears of corn, five oranges, six bananas, three cucumbers, three cans of tuna, four packets of ramen, five boxes of Ronzoni pasta, one jar of tomato sauce, one bag of carrots (organic), one stick of butter, processed-cheese slices, one tub of pre-mixed peanut butter and jelly (Smucker’s Goober). Total cost: $24.44.”
He gained 2 pounds that week but in doing so raised the awareness of the food-stamp program. He also proved how difficult it is to eat healthy when forced to economize.
Evan Steiner did something similar at Hungry for a Month where he spent only $30 on food for the entire month of November last year.
Those are extreme examples but yesterday in the LA Times, Liz Pulliam Weston answered a reader’s question about how someone could reduce the money they spent on food each month. She’s suggesting that a single person can survive on $100-$150 per month for their food purchases.
She writes, “Is it tough to get by on so little? Good heavens, yes, but it’s not impossible.”
Here’s how she suggested that someone could do it:
- Make dried beans, rice and ramen noodles your staples. Meat and fish will make occasional cameos, rather than daily appearances.
- Eliminate prepackaged foods as well as sodas, alcohol, candy and snacks from your grocery list. The closer to nature the food is, the better, and there’s no room in your budget for empty calories.
- Choose fresh fruits and vegetables in season, and haunt farmers’ markets toward the end of the day to bargain for unsold goods.
- Double or triple recipes when you cook and freeze the excess for later. Having meals you can quickly heat up in the microwave will reduce the temptation to order in or eat out.
She finished the segment by noting one cookbook/how-to guide to try is ‘Dining on a Dime,’ available at Living on a Dime.
Jeanine and I spend about $100 a week on groceries. That’s $400 a month – a far cry from the above. We typically eat out one night on the weekend and then maybe one other night during the week – either something inexpensive or take-out. The rest of the time, we eat in. We like to cook.
I actually thought this was pretty good until I read the comments in this post over at Frugal Hacks where families of four and five people were eating on $100 or less a week. The writer asked the question, “What is your idea of a comfortable grocery budget?”
So what is your weekly / monthly food budget and how do you stay within those limits?