Sally’s Niece, a fellow blogger and frequent commenter, asked how I eat on $100 a month. My sister asked me the same question over the phone a couple days later. I figure if they were asking, you’re probably wondering too. Here are a few things I’ve learned the last couple of years:
1) I stay on the perimeter of the grocery store. It’s where all the stuff you really need is. Only when I get rice, pasta, or canned veggies do go in the aisles. Why do I avoid the aisles as a general rule? Things like cereal and prepackaged foods really add up. I only splurge on that stuff when I really care, as with my occasional purchase of Odwalla Superfood juice.
2) Despite my small space, I buy some things in bulk. Bags of onions, potatoes, lentils, brown rice, flour, and other staples I use all the time helps me save money.
3) Use some “filler” ingredients to stretch out the meal. Cutting up an onion or mixing some lentils into a dish makes it stretch a serving or two further without sacrificing taste or nutrition. (Fillers are bought in bulk… coincidence? Definitely not.)
4) I have one type of meat a week. This week, I’ll roast a chicken. Next week, it may be fake crab meat. I just check out what’s on sale and get a source of protein, usually one that I’ll use for multiple meals. Check out what’s the weekly bargain by examining the price per pound. Plus, eating less meat is good for the planet, folks!
5) My friends and I take turns cooking for each other. This way, we can make a regular sized meal and not eat it for five days straight. Plus it’s fun to eat with people!
6) My rule: Unit price of $2.99 or less. Next time you’re in the grocery store, look at onions. Do you really think that in a stirfry, the $1.29/pound onions will be all that different then the $2.69/pound onions? Probably not. In every aisle, you have these kind of choices. Think store brand and items higher and lower on shelves (not at eye level). It’s amazing how being mindful can save you a lot of money.
7) I eat when I’m hungry. Some nights, I have a bowl of soup and some nights a three course meal. My host parents in France often had an orange for dinner on Saturdays when I went out. They usually had a big lunch and just weren’t hungry. I used to think it was a little sad but then I realized they were just being practical and thrifty.
8) I make it from scratch. Nothing kills a craving like making yourself cook it. I mean, the $3 baguette is great but I can make it for a third of the price at home, even if it isn’t quite as good. This has the added benefit of making me appreciate the baguette when I do buy it.
9) I splurge when it counts. Fresh basil with my tomato and mozzerella salad? Absolutely! Some things are worth a splurge for me and since it is a treat, I enjoy it when I do have it.
10) I use every last bit of food. From the hunk of cheese to a small amount of tofu, I find some way to use food items before they go bad. Because throwing away food is not only wasteful of money but of resources.
So that’s how I do it. Nothing fancy but it works for me!
Other reading on the subject:
Tips and Tricks To Eat Healthy On A Budget (Wisebread)
Don’t Waste Your Food (Being Frugal)
What The Great Depression Can Teach Us About Food And Frugality (Cheap Healthy Good)