Eating On A Tight Budget: Mother Hubbard Challenge - Others Join the Challenge

L.E. said...

Very interesting challenge. I live in a fairly high COLA city, but thankfully we have Aldi. I could do this challenge only because we don't eat meat, and because of Aldi. Our Aldi has handheld baskets available for free so I wouldn't need the quarter for the cart.

By us, per pound, potatoes are the cheapest food there is. Aldi sells even cheaper potatoes than I buy.

All Breakfasts: fried potatoes and 8 eggs over the course of the 7 breakfasts.

PB & J - 5 days a week, with a banana on the side
Omelette using eggs and milk, and 1/3 zucchini & cheese; 1 piece toast per person - 1 day
spaghetti with red sauce (no zucchini) - 1 day

Baked potato with butter, and broccoli and melted shredded cheese on top (5 days.) If still hungry can have a second baked potato with butter. 2 days have beets on the side, and 3 days add some black beans for added protein. If don't want the black beans, can either add to the lunch omelette or to spaghetti sauce.
Spaghetti with red sauce, with 1/3 chopped zucchini added (2 days)

Food available for snacks:
1 large banana
a few slices of bread for toast
likely some potatoes
glass of milk

Leftover at end of week:
likely spaghetti sauce
likely a few potatoes
Possibly the can of black beans if nobody wants it on potatoes, in omelettes or in red sauce

Shopping list w/prices:
1 can 15 oz black beans - 0.59
0.49 - 1 can 15 oz sliced beets - 0.49
3 cans 14.5 oz tomatoes with basil, garlic & oregano: 0.49x3 = 1.47
1 bag frozen broccoli - 0.95
1 dozen large eggs - 0.98
5 lb baking potatoes (10 potatoes; they are huge) - 1.49
6 large bananas @ .39/lb = .90
16 oz spaghetti - 1.19
PB - 1.49
jelly - 1.49
1 loaf wheat bread - 1.39
1 gallon 2% milk - 2.12
1 lb butter (buy salted butter because no other salt) - 2.40
1 zucchini - 0.99
1 8 oz package cheddar cheese - 1.49
Total: 19.43
tax (2.25%): 0.44
Total: $19.87

I think L.E. did wonderfully well...and it's a good example of eating without having meat included in the menu.

On Facebook Sunday someone shared a picture of a bucket of KFC with two sides and biscuits for $20 and then offered up a photo of 2 pounds of chicken breasts, 1 pound of 96% lean ground beef,  8 ears of corn, 1 gallon of milk, 2 pounds of frozen green peas, 3 peaches totaling 1 pound, 1 18 oz. container oatmeal , 32 ounce tub of yogurt, 10 pounds of potatoes, 1 pound of kidney beans   This too was supposed to be available for $20.  I believe they purchased these items at a Walmart grocery based on the brands on the items, all generic store stuff.

I can't say if it's $20 or not at today's prices in my area but it's a good example of how much food one might purchase for the cost of a take out dinner.  I eat out about two times a month with Mama and I'm always conscious of how much more cheaply I can prepare any meal I order...and how much more food I'd have for my money.

I decided to jump on board with this since I'm snowed in and I was curious to see if I could do it. My plan is based on 4 people, two adults and one teenage son (19) and one teenage daughter (16). This was assuming I had absolutely nothing in my home to eat...not one single morsel. I also priced it on grocery stores that are in my town (Walmart, Lowes Foods, and Food Lion). The other stores I used prices from are Harris Teeter and Kroger, since they are in the town my husband works. We have an Aldi about 20 minutes away, but I'm guessing since I'm on such a tight grocery budget that I don't have the gas to go out of my way.

iceberg lettuce 0.93
garlic powder 0.88
chili powder 0.88
dozen eggs 1.97
creamy peanut butter 28 oz 2.23

Harris Teeter:
kiwi 0.25
apples 1lb. 0.88
yellow onion 1lb. 0.50
Kikkoman sauce mixes-
sweet and sour 0.50
beef and broccoli 0.50
Birdseye steamfresh broccoli 1.00
20 oz sandwich bread (x2) 1.94
sugar 64 oz 1.77
margarine quarters 0.99
20 ct tea bags 1.97
32oz white rice 1.25

Food Lion:
1lb. carrots 0.99
5lb. potatoes 2.50
jelly 2.00
chicken leg quarters (5lb)@0.59 lb 2.95
ranch salad dressing 1.39
spaghetti 0.50
spaghetti sauce 0.88
macaroni 0.50
oatmeal packets 8ct 1.50

Lowes Foods:
80% ground beef $1.99/lb x2 3.98
salt and pepper shakers 1.79

tortilla chips (free this week)
canned kidney beans 0.60
canned tomatoes x2 1.20

Grand total of $40.00

Meal plan:

Breakfasts--oatmeal packets x2, fried egg (1 per person) and toast w/ margarine and jelly x2, hashbrown potatoes and toast x3

Lunches--baked potatoes w/ apple slices and PB, leftover chicken noodle soup w/ tortilla chips, pb&j sandwiches w/ kiwi, pb&j sandwiches w/ carrot sticks and ranch dressing, salad w/ tiny little bit of chicken picked from bones on it (uses lettuce, onion, carrots, dressing, homemade croutons from heels of bread), leftover chili w/ tortilla chips, rice w/ bits of ground beef and spices and carrot sticks w/ ranch

dinners--spaghetti w/ garlic bread (uses spaghetti, sauce, 1/2lb of ground beef, onion, salt, pepper, margarine, bread, garlic powder), sweet and sour chicken (uses meat from already cooked leg quarters, sauce packet, onions, carrots, rice), beef and broccoli (ground beef, broccoli steam fresh, onion, carrots, rice), baked chicken quarters, fried potatoes, salad (this would be our big Sunday meal), chicken noodle soup w/ tortilla chips (macaroni, bits of chicken, broth from cooked down chicken bones, carrots, salt and pepper, garlic powder), chili w/ tortilla chips (ground beef, kidney beans, chili powder, onion, tomatoes, salt and pepper), clean out the fridge dinner (use up anything that is leftover!!!)

snacks: boiled eggs, toast w/ margarine and jelly, apple slices (very thin) sautéed in sugar and margarine

beverages: water, sweet tea

For the next week, I'd have more room in my budget. I'd still have the following left to use--salt, pepper, garlic powder, sugar, chili powder, tea bags, jelly, peanut butter, margarine, salad dressing, and maybe a little rice.

I just wouldn't allow myself to stretch this time beyond the $20 and so no seasonings on my plan...but I see here that while you might eat well for the week, it's not going to be loads and loads of foods, not with two teens in the household!  I think you did very well planning and you are quite right: leftovers will be a help in stretching the budget for the next week.

This fascinates me. In fact, some years ago, I also looked on several blogs to find low-cost budget menus. I also noticed they were assuming you had some things. However, if you didn't, the first week would be torture, but then a person could begin to build the pantry. Each week would become easier once you had your salt and pepper, etc.

I have definitely had to contend with a low food budget. But, by the time we were married in September over 34 years ago, we had already purchased a chest freezer and stocked it with frozen garden vegetables from my parents' garden. I also had a large canning cupboard full of fruit and green beans ready to go. I think it's because I come from a farming family and I new no other way. So, where it wasn't always preferred food, there was always plenty of food.

I well remember when my husband, Rob, decided to go to college after we had been married for a while, we were hard up. One winter, I purchased 1 bunch of bananas, and 1 small bag of oranges and no other fresh fruit for the entire winter. We ate our canned peaches, pears, applesauce, etc. and made out fine. We ate home-canned green beans so many times it became a family joke, but we still love them. I walked to a grocery store so that I absolutely could not buy too many groceries:) because I would have to carry them home. We never, ever, went hungry, and in fact, ate very well. All the while, I was slowly building the pantry as I could.

So, I would think that, for me at least, the goal would be to get my pantry re-built if I even had to go down to zero for some horrible reason. Great food for thought!

Becky, I too grew up with a garden and preserving and canning things.  I didn't however have those things when I first married.  And so we found ourselves three months into the marriage on a very very tight budget. I bought a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly, and  cans of tuna for lunches.  I had peanut butter and jelly four days and tuna three days.  On the days I had tuna I was allowed $.15c for a soda from the office machine or a bag of chips (it was a choice, lol).  On peanut butter sandwich days I took a jar of buttermilk with me to work.

My husband at the time spent $35 on a couple of coolers of mullet (UGH) which we ate baked, fried and steamed with potatoes and occasionally green beans.  A woman I worked with felt sorry for me about the mullet and told me how much she just loved it and offered to trade some of her fresh black eyed peas for some of the mullet...Wasn't she sweet? lol  That at least gave us some variety!  I can't say I was sorry to trade off some of the mullet either!

And to be honest, it was always a tight budget thereafter.  My happiest year with ex was the year we planted a small garden, just about the width of a three line clothes line and about 10 feet long.  It made enough squash, tomatoes, black eye peas, butter beans and green beans for me to can a couple of dozen jars or more of each in addition to eating fresh.  I was over the moon that year what with the garden and the owner of a peach orchard that allowed us to cull peaches left after the packing shed was done with the orchard.  I got 30 quarts of peaches...So we ate pretty good for that summer and winter!

I also was surprised at how many of the 'low budget feeds family' posts and articles I read all assumed there was a well stocked pantry/freezer to draw from.  I couldn't help but think of our Dale who lost every thing the day before Thanksgiving in that house fire...Where do you start when you've no pantry?  What if you're also in the position of not having ready money, too?  Things happen that we don't plan on happening and we can easily get into an "I can't" mindset before we've even tried.  So I thought I'd 'exercise' my brain and my "I can!" and prove I could do this if it were ever needed. 

Just out of curiosity, I added up what that list would cost me at our less expensive grocery store in town. A whopping $43.10!! I priced everything at store brand, unless something else was on sale for a lower price. We don't pay tax on any true grocery items, just convenience items such as sodas, bottled water, deli items, etc.

I was probably surprised most by the difference in the cost of milk. The cost of milk is regulated in California and I'm always astounded by the fact that we pay so much more than the rest of the country - when we produce so much of the milk!

15 ounces peanut butter $2.99
grape Jelly $2.79
salt $1.09/container
green onions $1.69
bread $1.50
grits $4.49
milk $5.09/gal
eggs $3.99
8 oz. cheddar cheese $3.29
1# margarine $1.49
1# brown rice $2.19
1# black beans $2.19
1# whole wheat pasta $2.19
1# carrots $1.05
1 6 ounce cup plain yogurt $1
1 can diced tomatoes $1
3# chicken breasts $5.07

Rachel, this is one thing I think we all must fix in our heads: food costs vary widely across the U.S., sometimes even within the same state.  I can purchase from an Aldi 40 miles away but if I had to buy at our local store?  I'd be hard pressed to spend just $20 and I'd have very little to show for what I did get.  Bess and Sam have gone into shock this year.  It's their first year without an Aldi near them (the nearest is 120 miles away in Jacksonville, Florida) and the next nearest one is 220 miles away here in Warner Robins!  They've both complained about the cost of buying the same foods at their local stores and they've tried every one of them but can't keep costs as low as they were accustomed to having them in the past.

So when we read of this woman or that feeding her family for $37 we really need to know just where they are living, where they purchase the food, etc. before we think we aren't doing well with our budgets!


Anonymous said...

When you are talking budget there are a lot of things to take into consideration. The stores you have. We have an Aldi, but the other stores are high priced, unless you really know what is inexpensive and buy only that. How demanding are the jobs people have? An office worker should need smaller meals than a construction worker. What is the mindset of the family? Some people want certain food and would rather eat well, at least according to their thinking. Other families get use to smaller quanties and more inexpensive foods, especially if there is a goal in mind such as a family vacation. Are snacks and desserts considered normal or a treat? Some people have larger frames, some smaller, some growing active teenagers, others are quite sedentary in their activities, others are very active families. I just don't think you can ever set your budget according to someone elses. Family incomes and expenses vary greatly. Some people have fruit trees, animals and a large garden, others are apartment dwellers. Some families have 2 wage earners and great jobs. Others are one income families with a lot of expenses. If your budget fits you, then it is right. If you are deprived of necessitiesbbecause of the food expense then cutting back is a real option. Gramma D

Anonymous said...

I had to laugh about the mullet. Men love to provide! When we were so young and hard-up, my husband, Rob, found an excessively good deal on turkey drumsticks. (He was laid off within a couple of weeks after we got married, and it went from there for a while) I believe they were 19cents/lb. I believe he bought 3 (Yes, 3!!!) CASES! They were large cases. I made turkey soup constantly, baked drumsticks, boiled drumsticks, cut the meat off and ground it in my food processor before turkey burger was common, made casseroles.... We didn't starve, that's for sure.

My garden was not really successful those first few years. In fact, I grew more rocks than anything:) Thankfully, my family could still grow a good one, and had extra to spare. With practice, I grew my gardening skills, and then I got good results.

I'm really enjoying this series! I love to think about these kind of things.

Anonymous said...

You are so right. In our area of California milk is $2.79 at this time. It had been cheaper but in the last 6 months crept up but not ever as cheap as yours Teri. Brown rice and black beans are $1.25 a lb. or cheaper if you wait for a sale of bulk ones. Then depending onto store they can be 50c to 99c a lb. Eggs this week are $2.99 at Ralf's {Kroger} a few of her other things I don't know the current price of. Cheese was $2.99 a lb. for cheddar/jack at Sprouts when we went last week. Whole wheat pasta is on sale very often in store or popular brands for 99c a lb. Prices vary so much from area to area and state to state. I find many times people in the East say their prices are cheaper on dairy things and such and we are on produce. Many times it ends up making the total about the same then.

Grandma D. is so right! If your budget fits you, then it is right. If you are deprived of necessities because of the food expense then cutting back is the real option.

We have never had huge appetites and prefer smaller meat portions so no doubt that has helped us a lot in our budget. We can only do what we can. Each family knows what it needs and how much money it has to spend on necessities. I find all of this fascinating though. Sarah

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