Stretching a food budget to the extreme
Family of 3 to feed. For a month. On $100. Can it be done?
By Gary Foreman
The New Frugal You
Dear New Frugal You,
My problem is beyond frugal. I only have $100 to feed my family of 3 for the next
month. I'm not a great cook and just don't know what to do. Can you help me to
get through the month without starving my family? -- Jana
problem may be bigger than most frugal living I get, but it's not unsolveable -- if you throw every trick in the cookbook at it. Let's examine a few.
by checking your existing inventory. You may not have a lot of food in the
house, but you'll want to use everything that you do have.
you're not sure how to use some of the things on your pantry shelf, check out
recipe websites. Most will allow you to put in ingredients and they'll return a
list of recipes that use them. Don't
worry about not being an excellent chef. The recipes sites tend to have articles and videos
covering any cooking skill you'll need.
consider other sources for food besides the grocery store. Many are need based
so you'll have to admit that you want help. There's no shame in that. Almost
all of us have struggled at one time or another.
out about local food pantries. Most contain a variety of staples. If you don't
know of any in your community, check with a local church. They should be able
to provide contact info.
on your income level, government assistance might be available. SNAP
(Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program), commonly called food
stamps, is meant to help families who need help with groceries.
your children's school. You'll find lunch assistance programs available. An
added bonus is that most school lunches are well balanced which should make
your job easier.
also possible that you might be able to work for some food. That
might sound strange, but it can't hurt to ask at local fruit/veggie stands and
farms. Also ask them what they do with produce that's overripe and can't be
big key to your success is meal planning. You'll want to select recipes that
allow you to use whatever inventory you have and don't require you to buy
expensive ingredients. Stick to simple recipes.
you do go to the grocery store stay away from processed foods. Whole potatoes
are cheaper than the instant mashed ones. For the most part, the closer foods are to their natural
state the cheaper they will be.
food is relatively inexpensive, especially beans and starches. A five-pound bag
of rice can be the basis for many meals for pennies. Sticking to the basics
will stretch your food dollar.
beans to provide protein for your meals. Raw beans are inexpensive and not that
hard to cook. Check the Web for how-to videos.
to have some meatless meals. Look for markdowns when you do buy meat. And only
buy cuts that you can spread across multiple meals.
advantage of in-season vegetables. They provide good nutrition. Often they're
flavorful. And, if they're locally grown, they can be found very cheaply. Blend
in some soup or salad meals. A head of lettuce along with a tomato and a bit of
salad dressing makes an acceptable meal.
sure that nothing you buy goes to waste. Whether it's the last few pieces of
meat or a half a potato, make sure you use it before it spoils.
facing a tough challenge, but not an impossible one. For the next month your
menu options may be limited. But your family need not go hungry and you'll pick
up some frugal living skills that will continue to save you money.
See related: Making those meal dollars last,
Fresh fruits and vegetables needn't eat up your budget, Mmm, mmm cheap: Finding inexpensive, tasty recipes
Meet CreditCards.com's reader Q&A experts
Vexed by a personal finance problem?
CreditCards.com's Q&A experts answer questions from readers every weekday. Ask a question, or click on any expert to see their previous answers.
Published: June 22, 2013