Eating on a Tight Budget: Mother Hubbard's Cupboard, Final Post

This will be the final post in the first part of this series.  I was pleased so many of you interacted and commented about this series.  I thank you all for participating. 

Just as a reminder: My challenge this week was to stretch $20 as far as I could to provide meals for TWO. In my scenario, I had no pantry and no freezer to pull foods from and I was in the current season with nothing growing nor able to forage for any foods.  In a perfect world, a neighbor or family member might well have helped out.  Heaven knows Mama was the food angel for our household many times, bringing in a bag of fruit or a grocery sack filled with meat she'd bought on sale to help carry us along.  But in this scenario, it was John and I and $20.

I took note of several things this week:

1. Were it  necessary, I COULD provide for us on $20.  The meals wouldn't be well balanced and nutritionally sound, but they would sustain us and feed us three meals a day. 

2. Second, I recalled why I like some of the recipes used during this challenge.  While I didn't go without proper seasonings, I do recall days when I didn't have the additions I made to the main dishes and that they filled us up.  They still do.  They are good, solid meals.

3. I want to explore a bit further into this realm of eating cheaply and build up a repertoire of recipes to turn to.  I am going to be looking for inexpensive ingredients that will add nutritive value, fiber and protein to replace meat.  I noted today as I made a big pot of vegetable soup that the barley I used has a protein value.  It's low but it does have protein value.  So this is an area to research.

4. Funnily enough, this scenario and my attempts to  get by on such a low amount, opened my eyes to the numerous spices and herbs I use only occasionally and made me aware of which I use often and often.  It also opened my eyes to how much food we have in this house!  It also made me aware of the many ways I might well stretch out the money I spent this week.  For instance, Debbie's comment about re-growing the green onions made me remember that I could attempt to regrow the celery as well.   That reminder prompted me to set romaine stems, celery root and cabbage end all in water.  Even if only a mere handful of leaves results from those attempts it would essentially be a handful more that I didn't have to pay for.  I plan to pot these items in soil, but not this evening.  It's quite cold and rainy outdoors.  It can wait through the weekend.

5.  This challenge made me GRATEFUL.  Grateful for the tough years that helped hone the skills that drove me to attempt this, if only on paper.  Grateful I no longer need get an ulcer as I attempt to feed a family on little money.  Grateful for the abundance of foods in my home  pantry and freezer that enable me to eat a balanced diet.  Grateful for my knowledge of how to combine seasonings to make simple foods super flavorful.  Grateful for the many skills I am determined to polish and put to good use this year, like making yogurt and making jelly.   Golly but that yogurt and jelly is good!  Grateful that those hard days of a super tight food budget are behind us.  Grateful for the ability to make good food from simple WHOLE foodstuffs.  Grateful I live in an area where $20 WILL buy enough food for two for 7 days. 

I will be back next month with a whole new challenge budget and scenario. If any of the rest of you did attempt this exercise and would like to post about your results please do.  I'll share them.  If you tried and failed due to the prices in your area, share that, too. I am sure everyone would be interested...I know I am!


Wendi said...

I have enjoyed following along with this for a variety of reason. One is that we are working to pay off some medical debt. Cutting our grocery budget is one way we plan to funnel some more money toward it. Some time ago I did an experiment to see how many meals I could make from two chicken breast. It was fun and encouraging to stretch myself. I might have to give this challenge a go. I don't always comment, but I read each post and enjoy my peek into your life. Thanks for the encouragement!

Anonymous said...

Can you tell us how the experiment with growing onions or celery or cabbage goes? I've tried it and had no luck. I'll be curious to see if or how it works for you.

When we grow cabbage in the garden, after we pick the first head we always get lots more cabbage heads before frost - same with broccoli. They are plants that give and give ... if you can grow them without worms that is! Smile. We've given up on broccoli but cabbage grows great and is a solid keeper into the winter. Pam

Sew Blessed Maw [Judy] said...

Thank you for the post. I enjoyed everyone's adventures and ideas.. I learn so much from my blog friends. Thank you.
I didn't do the $20 grocery week. I didn't go to the store this week, and I am going to try to cut grocery budget by skipping grocery shopping one week.. [I will buy fresh fruit, or bread if needed].
Have a great weekend. Stay warm.

Kathy said...

I enjoyed the challenge! It was eye opening for me too. We are surely blessed with having a pantry. But it makes me want to stock up more on fruits and veggies, perhaps add more dried foods to my pantry. I want to find more inexpensive but nutritious recipes too. Thanks for the challenge!

Rebecca said...

Wow! Congratulations.
I'm going to do a little research to find out how to get some extra greens from green onions and celery (and who knows WHAT else)!

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

Stephanie said...

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 steamfresh, 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.

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