Eating On A Tight Budget: Mother Hubbard Challenge - Kathy's Menu

I was so pleased that Kathy decided to accept The Mother Hubbard Challenge!  I'll be sharing her shopping list and menu plan very shortly.  I'll follow up with a few replies to comments on this series of posts rather than wait until the end of the month.

Thanks for your challenge! It is much harder than I expected, and I'm glad that you aren't going to follow the menu exactly. Your health is more important, esp with diabetes, but I think it is good to think of what we might do.

Since there are 2 adults and 2 teens here, I wasn't able to come up with a menu plan for $20 for a week. I tried to do a dollar a day per person which would have been $28, but I was still having trouble with that I think I could feed us for $37. I would have some of the same meals:

oatmeal with apple or banana
eggs/toast, french toast

pb&j or pb&banana, chicken salad with apple and ranch dressing, hard boiled eggs

taco soup x2(prudent homemaker recipe)
spaghetti, lettuce salad, bread
baked chicken legs with rice and salad
chicken fried rice with carrots and onions
chicken soup
chicken and gravy over rice

I should be able to make 6 loaves of French bread or 5 min artisan bread

oatmeal $1.69
milk 2.49
bananas 1.
apples 1 (3 for $1)
carrots 1 (1 lb)
lettuce 1 iceberg
onions 1.5 (3lbs)
tomatoes 2/1
corn 2/1
chili powder 1
rice 1
bl beans 2/1
flour 1.59
yeast 1.5
sugar 1.89
tea 2
eggs-18 1.59
chicken legs 4.90 (10 lb bag at .49/lb)
pb 1.5
jelly 1.5
soy sauce 1.5
spaghetti 1
spaghetti sauce 1
salt .69
ranch dressing -free

Debbie:  Did you know you can grow more onions from you green onion bottoms as long as they still have the root end attached? Just stick the bottom inch or so (roots down) in a small glass of water and it will grow more onions. I buy a small bunch of green onions and do this to keep us supplied in green onions during the winter and in the warmer weather, I will plant it out in my garden where it multiplies! 

I actually thought about that last night as I was writing up the post. I needed to use the bulk of the white part of the onion in my menu plans and was wondering if just the root bottom would produce more.  Something to experiment with!

Pam:  Wow, Terri, our prices are double what yours are for almost everything except eggs. Milk is $4.09/gallon. We have 6.5% tax on food.

When I read how someone feeds a family of 5, and 3 of those are 2 teen boys and a hubby, it really does make me ponder if they are telling the truth.

This makes me doubly thankful for our garden produce. I have enough green beans, zucchini, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and carrots canned or frozen for the winter into the spring and even summer months. We have lots of potatoes in storage. I have some frozen fruits. I canned 14 qts. of rhubarb pie filling this past summer and I have home-canned applesauce. I have enough jelly and jam canned for several years. The fruit trees don't always bear so one learns to put the fruit up when they do.

I can grind my own wheat which is grown on the farm but we are not enjoying the whole wheat bread like we used to. I mix oatmeal, a 9-grain mix, and white flour in my homemade bread and sometimes I add chia seeds and sometimes whole millet, which grows on the farm. We have honey from the farm.

Your challenge is good for me. It opens my eyes to all I have in my pantry. And can I just say here that my full pantry is a lot of work in the summer?! The gardening and the canning take up a lot of time. It doesn't just happen. Smile.

Pam, Prices vary a lot across country, even from county to county and store to store.  That's why I was curious to see what others could come up with.  I based my shopping in an area 35miles from us.  Had I to rely on the local store and it's prices we'd never have managed even that small amount of food for twice that amount. 

Debbie in Ks:  I've been sick so I haven't been reading. Very interesting challenge! I remember a story written in our paper several years back about a similar challenge. I think it was a $21 per week (or $1 per meal) for one person. It was called "the welfare challenge" or something. I tried that and had no problem at all having a decent and fairly healthy week. The reporters failed miserably, but their choices were nuts lol. My friends and I also determined that a challenge like that was even easier if you had "kids", meaning you could combine the amount to buy larger quantities to save money. No, it wasn't fancy, but a simple, healthy meal could be had. And, we figured, since most of those kids qualified for both free breakfasts and lunches at school, their budgets for a week were far larger than ours. Admittedly, Teri, yours is a far bigger challenge. My husband wouldn't last past breakfast. He's a big guy (not fat, but 6'9") with a speedy metabolism (sooooo unfair!) and he polishes off a tube of saltines every night right after a full dinner lol. That's his idea of a "little snack."

Debbie in KS , My husband wouldn't be really happy with that menu but he can be stoic when he has to be and that counts for a lot.  When I told him I was issuing this challenge he was alarmed.  I explained that we'd eat some of the meals suggested but I'd not be holding him to anything as stringent! 

We ate Black Beans and Rice on Monday.  I served them with half an orange each and a slice of cornbread.  It was delicious but I couldn't help but think how much more 'plain' it would seem without oregano and garlic added. I did do the canned tomato and raw onion topping I first proposed and that was surprisingly good.  I'll do that again in future when serving black beans if we haven't any fresh tomatoes on hand.  Today we had the Spaghetti a la Diable and I served that with steamed fresh green beans, a green salad and slice of cheesy garlic bread.  I did use mushrooms in this dish, fresh ones.  Again I contrasted our meal with the menu plan. 

It's little things that make a meal more satisfying and filling and not always expensive add-ons but my food budget generally allows for these sorts of additions.  Would we have been as satisfied eating the casserole with out the mushrooms and seasonings?  Without those simple and inexpensive sides?  Probably not, but we'd have had a meal and that's what I was counting on when I wrote out that proposed menu.

I kept to two ounces of cheese to top the casserole and realized that the proposed spaghetti and cheese would be one bland dish with just four ounces of cheese in it.  However it would have been food to fill the empty stomach and would have some protein value even with that small amount of cheese and the egg and milk I proposed to use in that dish.

Mabel Hastings:  Why do you use eggs to thicken, rather than flour? And how do you do that, stirring in first last or what? Thanks for any information. I am extremely anemic (as in the doctors want me to be fed nutrients through a tube!) and finding another way to add protein filled eggs to my menu would be of great help.

Mabel, I proposed using the egg to thicken the cheese sauce because my imaginary budget wouldn't allow for the purchase of a bag of flour. 

Here in my area of the South it is not uncommon to find homemade macaroni and cheese made with milk and egg.  However, it is not cooked on the stove top as I suggested.  The cooked seasoned pasta and shredded cheese is put in a casserole and then a well beaten egg is mixed well with milk and poured over the dish and it is baked.  That is likely the way I would have made the Spaghetti with Cheese dish.  It is the way Grandmama C used to make it.  It does add greatly to the nutrient value of the dish. 

Sew Blessed Maw (Judy):  Whew...Terri, this seems really hard. I think you do an excellent job on your budget. Plus, you do 3 meals a day, most days.. I think the people who are getting by on these tiny budgets,They don't eat all their meals at home??

We [only 2 of us] allot $250 a month. This is for foods, cleaning supplies, and paper products. I do a lot of  Walmart price matching. My daughter went to a coupon class and shared the info with me. Sale prices come around every 5-6 weeks. Then they repeat. I have found this to be true. So, I buy enough of what ever is on sale to last my family for 6 weeks /thus never having to buy it for full price. This is not only meats, but can veggies/and things too. This really helps keep me from having to run to the store in between grocery shopping.

I have heard from Walmart employees, that they are fixing to stop the price matching. They have already cut it out in some of our areas [but not my store yet??] However, if they should stop it ... I will take a day to go from store to store to buy what is on sale. I will still buy whatever is on sale to last for 6 weeks. Thus I will not be paying full price.  I know that by not getting to comparison shop at Walmart, I will have to spend more.. So, I am anxious to see how this will affect our budget?? Bty... hubby and I are both retired, we don't go out to eat a whole lot.. and we don't eat 3 meals a day.. Usually 2 meals a day..

Judy, We eat three meals a day that are well spaced, about five hours apart.  Typically I don't snack during the day but I've learned to eat something light at night to keep sugars stable overnight.  John is a bit of a snacker...So this imaginary budget scenario would mean real life sacrifice if we followed it!

Chris: Very interesting ... in my past, I, too, had a very limited food budget, which caused me to think long and hard about meals and what I could feed myself and two children. It was anxiety-producing to be sure! One of the things that helped was that I knew how to cook, had cooked under varying circumstances, and had knowledge about I could put together. I think some people today don't have cooking skills, so lack of money is compounded by lack of what to do inexpensively. One thing I think you might want to explore is the bulk aisle. I use the bulk aisle a great deal. Oatmeal per ounce is cheaper in bulk than in a container and you can purchase only what you need. I can also purchase small amounts of very specific ingredients for recipes and not be left with excess I won't use. Plus, this is basically where I get my spices. They're so much less expensive and I can buy just enough and not have an issue with it going stale. I've been surprised by what all is in the bulk aisle and what I could possibly do with the items. Good luck with this! 

Chris, I don't know of a store that sells these items in bulk, except the spices. I can purchase bulk spices at a Mennonite store or at The Fresh Market.  Both are some 40 miles from here, not out of range for me since most of my shopping is usually done 40 miles away anyway, but both are in totally different directions from the area where I normally shop.

I do agree that in this instance, it was knowledge of the proposed dishes which I'd cooked many, many times over the years so I knew they were inexpensive and filling and my experience as a cook that allowed me to make substitutions as needed that helped me manage this challenge menu!

Tammy:  This will be interesting to see how your budget and menus all work out.
When I was a kid, my sister and I used to shop at the grocery store on Saturday mornings (Mom had to work). We walked to the store, then used the pay phone to call Dad to come pick us up when were done. We had a blank signed check to pay, but our budget for 7 people was $50/week, and we did not dare go over. We pretty much bought the same things each week and relied heavily on ground beef. I wonder now how much per pound that cost. I'm sure it was mere cents. We did eat school lunches, but Mom and Dad took theirs, using leftovers usually.

I am doing a freezer/pantry challenge this month, using what we have and only purchasing fresh produce and dairy. By the end of the month we get pretty creative.

I didn't have experience shopping when I was growing up so I had to learn that skill.  Unfortunately I learned plenty in both marriages during the hard financially tight days, lol.  It honed my skills in learning to Use it up, Make do, Do without!  I'll just bet you girls learned a lot doing the family shopping!

I recall a young woman who was a newlywed that I was acquainted with.  She had grown up very poor and she and her husband both made decent money.  She played it smart.  They lived on her salary which was the lesser one and banked his.  She worked out a set of menus and ordered the groceries to make those meals each week.  She just went down to the local grocery and picked them up.  The menu never varied from week to week, and she paid only so much money for their foods.  Within two years they were able to build their own home and were mortgage free.  That girl made a HUGE impression on me, namely because at that time I was in debt up to the top of my head and lived poor as poor.  I might have had the advantage of age over her but she had the advantage of being smart over me!

Well ladies that's it for this one.   If any one else cares to share their tight budget challenge, please do!


Anonymous said...

Hi Terri,

We have a really nice bulk option at our Kroger's, which is Fred Meyer in the NW along with Winco. I'm surprised options for bulk purchases aren't available near you. Good to know. I don't buy everything they have to offer by any means, but it is a nice option for a lot of things.


Anonymous said...

Winco and Sprouts markets have bulk spice and foods too. Also we have two local health food stores that sell lots of bulk spices and staples. Do you have any health food stores in your area you could call and ask? Ot ethic grocery stores? They might have things by the ounce you could buy too. Or some groceries have the spices cheap in cellophane bags instead of the name brands. Usually here they sell for for 98c each.

Do you have any neighbors with fruit trees or bushes you could gleam from? Or barter? Just a thought.

Thanks to everyone who have replied to your challenge. There are lots of hints we can all use. :) Sarah

Kathy said...

Thanks for a fun challenge. I kept thinking if I only had a few more dollars, I could buy more fruits/veggies. Perhaps some baking powder, so I could make biscuits and dumplings for chicken and dumplings. Maybe some butter to make cookies too. Oh and chocolate! :D

Sew Blessed Maw [Judy] said...

SO enjoyed the discussions.. Learned so many things.. Thanks everyone for the ideas.
My question--- with this $20 budget..If you do this , do you use anything from your pantry/freezer stash? If so, I don't think, I would be fair, because I have a big pantry/freezer stash.. [We have a big garden in the summer, and I have lots of veggies,fruits in the freezer, I also stock pile on sale things for the pantry.. ]
I am just curious, if I am thinking right?? [slow grandma for]

I could see where you could do this once a month or so, and really cut the grocery budget???Let me know , if I am not suppose to use pantry or freezer?

Thank you Terri, You are fantastic, for doing all this research and sharing with us..Hugs, Judy

Sew Blessed Maw [Judy] said...

ps Terri, I thought you did do the 3 meals a day.. SO knew you would have to have more meals to come out of your budget.You are doing a wonderful job.. congrats.

Crystal Hankey said...

When I first read about this challenge I admit to having a little anxiety. Not because I couldn't do it but it reminded me of when I was a single mom so many years ago with two teenage boys and only $15 or less a week for groceries. I worked two jobs and my ex tried everything he could to avoid child support for 6 years. I still remember cooking beans over night while trying to sleep but having to get up and stir them on and off and nap in between. If I didn't make everything from scratch there wasn't anything to eat the next day. Some days my jobs started early in the morning and ended at 11pm. Thank goodness a few years in my youngest learned to cook and that helped. He's a chef at a fancy restaurant now. I should have seen that coming. He is such a good shopper too. lol. Take care.

Lana said...

Miss a week here and you will have no idea what is going on!

Checking in to report on my husband. AFter 9 days in a coma he woke up last night. I have just been through the worst days of my life thinking that I would never bring him home again. Tonight he is responding to asked questions and his eyes are open. I do not know what the future holds but it is much better than what we thought. Prayer is still needed if you think of us.

Mabel Hastings-try Yellow Dock tincture for your anemia. Most have amazing results. You can get it at

Sew Blessed Maw [Judy] said...

Lana, SO happy to hear from you.. I have been praying for your husband, you and your family. I am so happy to hear your husband is out of the coma. Pray for a full recovery..May God bless you.. Judy

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