How to feed yourself for $15 a week

Our discussion about how to eat for cheap generated a lot of great tips. Daiko shared a detailed explanation of how he once got by spending just $15/week on food. This is a great real-life example of how it's possible to eat well without breaking the bank. I'm posting it here so that more people will see it.

Although I don't do this now, I once lived on $15 a week for food in the early 1990s. This was helped by the fact that my workplace fed me five meals a week, but I was still carrying the weight of sixteen additional meals (for slightly less than a dollar per meal). This was not easy or comfortable to do — I did it by necessity — but I believe it could still be done for $20/week in most parts of the U.S. Also, while I was satisfied at the time, the fare was probably a bit more spartan than most would willingly eat.

Here is some of what I did:

  1. Never allow leftovers to go bad. I would cook one or two major meals per week. Sometimes this was a full-sized lasagna, sometimes fish that was on sale, sometimes a big pot of homemade spaghetti sauce or soup with lots of fresh vegetables added. It always included a big salad. This big meal would feed me dinners (and some lunches) for five or six days, and I could not afford to throw any of it away. I would eat leftovers almost every day. Every ounce of it was eaten over the course of the week. (J.D.'s note: Here's an article on how to store your food so that it lasts longer.)
  2. Supplement with inexpensive foods. Many will say this is unhealthy. It would have been if it had been all that I ate, but I definitely ate a lot of Ramen and macaroni and cheese. These were bought when on sale: Ramen 7-for-$1 (a deal I've seen as recently as last week) and Mac & Cheese 3-for-$1. I also could get canned tuna 3-for-$1 easily, and once or twice a year as a loss leader for 5-for-$1. Poor man's tuna casserole was a staple and would feed me for two or three meals: one package of mac & cheese with one can tuna mixed in.
  3. Shop in the produce aisle. This sounds counter-intuitive, because everyone “knows” that produce is expensive. But I would shop for the inexpensive produce (which tended to be seasonal). Potatoes, carrots, celery, lettuce, tomatoes (sometimes), oranges (sometimes), cabbage, etc. These all make great food and provide snacks that generally don't spike your blood sugar like factory-made snacks do. Also, this may be obvious, but I would eat fruit in season. For example, apples were plentiful in the fall: I could get a bag for about $1 and would get one or two bags for the week. I would have apples with everything (and for snacks). Again, I could not afford to throw out a single apple, so I ate them all. And at that time of year, making an apple pie was in the budget too! (J.D.'s note: there's an actual fitness regiment based around apples: The 3-Apple-a-Day Plan.)
  4. Never eat out. I couldn't have bought more than four or five meals for my $15 weekly food budget, and that's assuming the cheap breakfast place that had meals for $2.95 a plate. I needed to get at least 16 meals out of that $15, so there was no room for the luxury of eating out.
  5. Have substantial cereals for breakfast. Oatmeal and Grapenuts were keys to my success. They both filled me up and kept me filled up for much of the day. A single container of oatmeal — not the flavored packages, which are expensive and insubstantial, but the big boxes of loose Old Fashioned Oatmeal — would last slightly longer than a week, even if I ate it every day. At the time this cost about $1.99 per container. You can get it today easily for $2.99 per container.
  6. Avoid junk food. Not one candy bar, bag of chips, pre-made peanut butter cracker, store-bought cookie, “breakfast bar”, or pack of gum could be afforded. This didn't mean I didn't have snacks: a bag of popcorn cost about $1, and if I had the money available I would get one. Also, I had flour, sugar, water, eggs (usually), oil, and oatmeal, so sometimes I would make oatmeal cookies (with raisins if I was splurging). Sometimes saltines were on sale and I would usually have peanut butter on the shelf, so I could make peanut butter crackers if I wanted.
  7. Avoid pre-cooked foods. Frozen dinners, deli-made quiche, store-roasted chicken — all of these cost too much per serving. If I wanted quiche, I had to make it from scratch. The ingredients were in my budget and on my shelves. If I wanted chicken, I waited until it was on sale for $0.39/lb and roasted it myself. I then ate it for 6-8 meals before chucking the bones into a pot to make chicken soup and having that for another 6-8 meals.
  8. Buy a basic paperback cookbook. Because I had to make most things from scratch, I bought a paperback copy of what is often called “The Plaid Cookbook”: the Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook. I think it cost $6 at that time, and was not part of my food budget, but it paid itself back many times over. (J.D.'s note: it only costs $8 now.) If I wanted to make lasagna, it told me how. Did I manage to buy a roast beef on sale? The cookbook told me how to avoid ruining it in the oven. Pumpkin pie? apple pie? quiche? roast chicken? all was explained, and often within my budget because I could make it from standard, inexpensive ingredients.
  9. Don't buy beverages. There's a reason Coca-Cola and Pepsi Co. have been good investments and consistent earners across the years: they are selling you water. During this tough time I did not buy soda, or water, or coffee, or tea, or any beverage other than milk (which was reserved for my breakfasts, and only on weeks when I was having boxed cereal). I think I bought hot cocoa mix during the winter, and that lasted several weeks. If I needed a sugar drink I used a tablespoon or two of lemon juice — which I had on hand as a cooking supply — and a tablespoon or two of sugar in a tall glass of iced water: instant soft drink for possibly $0.10.
  10. Special Bonus Tip. I didn't do this at the time, but I now know that using dried milk saves at least $1 per gallon. There are two tricks to using dried milk. First, invest in a glass container. I don't know why, but dried milk tastes terrible when stored in plastic. Second, chill it. If you follow these two suggestions, you'll be able to serve the milk to guests and they will never know. In fact, they will likely think you buy it from a dairy. (And yes, this is something that my family does now. We have been drinking almost exclusively dried milk for the last 7 years.) Dried milk also saves time and gas money: out of milk? No need to run to the convenience store, just mix it up. In this case we save almost $2.00 a gallon because milk is so much more expensive at the convenience store, and since the family drinks about a gallon a day, we save as much as $7-10 per week just by drinking dried milk.

There may have been other tricks that I've forgotten, but with only $15 to spend per week I had to think long and hard about buying anything that cost more than $1. Was it going to sustain me?

It was much harder when I started this radical budget, because I started from nothing. But over time, it got easier, in part because some items lasted longer than a week. For example, pantry items like a bag of sugar, a bag of flour, a bottle of oil, and a bag of brown sugar would generally last longer than a week. In the first weeks I had to buy a lot of these things and they used up a lot of my $15, but immediately they became the “money in the bank” that allowed me to buy other staples that might not last that long.

So, yes it is possible to eat without spending a fortune. Again, my food budget was radical by necessity, but the principles would still work today. I think $15/wk might not be enough now, but I think $20/wk would work, and I know that $30/wk would be fairly easy for a single person. For reference: $15/wk per person = $65/month for one and $260/month for a family of four. $30/wk per person = $130/month for one and $520/month for a family of four (which is about what my family spends on food now, and we don't eat anywhere near the way I did back in the '90s).

J.D.'s note: Even if you're unwilling to take all of the steps Daiko did to save money, implementing just a few of them can help you cut your food budget. Also, another cheap beginner's cookbook with simple recipes is Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.

More about...Food, Frugality

Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others

Subscribe to the GRS Insider (FREE) and we’ll give you a copy of the Money Boss Manifesto (also FREE)

Yes! Sign up and get your free gift
Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others
guest
182 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dale
Dale
13 years ago

Excellent article, I cook at home most of the time. You can learn to make really good food for very little money, and then even when you splurge on a fancy dish it’s only as much as cheap fast food. > Never eat out. Oh man, once you start making your own food you’ll begrudge any time you have to eat out. A single trip to Subway costs as much as a week’s worth of homemade lunches. > a bag of popcorn cost about $1, and if I had the money available I would get one Damn, dude! I’ve got… Read more »

Mrs. Micah
Mrs. Micah
13 years ago

We do some of those. We ate out twice in August, for and average of $14 per meal ($7 each). Chipotle–good Mexican food but not expensive. We didn’t buy beverages one time.

Carry water bottles which we refill from taps, fountains, and water coolers. Our bottles are just plain Dasani, Aquifina, whatever. Makes us less self-conscious and if we accidentally lose one, no biggie.

And the whole big meals. This week it was vegetable lentil soup and chicken caccatori with rice. So far they’ve lasted quite well.

Excellent post.

MetaMommy
MetaMommy
13 years ago

Beans, brown rice, bananas…also very cheap and nutritious. The biggest commitment is the willingness to cook, which can be a hard hurdle. But if you start small, the rewards are very fulfilling and encouraging. Cheap food that actually tastes good!

I once tried diluting my juice with water, and I realized that I preferred it. It mellows the flavor a bit, reduces your sugar and calorie intake, and reduces your costs dramatically.

Great post!

VulcanDeathGrip
VulcanDeathGrip
7 years ago
Reply to  MetaMommy

I agree about diluting!! I make our iced tea every weekend; I make a strong gallon with 3 teabags (down from 4) and I like it really, really weak. I pour about a third of a glass of tea and fill the rest with water. I had a McDonald’s sweet tea the other day (the boss bought it for me; I never would have!!) and it was so strong and sweet it was gross.

Shannon Cordray
Shannon Cordray
6 years ago

I think that you must have gotten a glass from a time that it was no longer to be used. Mcdonalds Ice tea is delicious on a Hot Summer day.

Justin
Justin
5 years ago

No, man. That stuff is nasty. It’s as thick a syrup and more than once I’ve gotten a cup of it that smelled like fat, people.

ADAM Y
ADAM Y
1 month ago

The palate is not meant for all that sugar. After not drinking sweet tea or soda for several weeks the taste becomes offensive

Melissa A.
Melissa A.
13 years ago

Again, we’ve heard a lot of these tips before, but they serve as a great reminder. Especially the tip on not buying water and pop. Goodness! I do buy tea and OJ (it’s like .50 a can) but that’s usually it (ok well I do like liquor). I’m going to try and make my own yogurt and applesauce, hoping that in the long run it will pay off. I think the biggest thing for me is not buying pre-made meals. Personally I find frozen dinners and canned soup taste awful, but it’s so much healthier and cheaper (usually) to make… Read more »

Holli Jo
Holli Jo
13 years ago

These are some great tips! For health reasons, we can’t really follow tip #2. I wish we could, because Ramen is some cheap food!

My husband and I have finally abandoned pre-cooked foods, but we still struggle with eating out.

What do you do when you can’t stand the thought of cooking yet another meal? Our solution is to eat out, but that solution costs $$.

Heather
Heather
7 years ago
Reply to  Holli Jo

what I do when I can is freeze leftovers like chili for those days when I can’t even look at the stove again. usually I will make a side with it but if the main is mostly done and just needs to be warmed cooking seems so much easier

Serena
Serena
13 years ago

great post! I love the “plaid cookbook” – it was my first all purpose cookbook and I give it as a gift to folks newly living on their own – it’s basic but I’ve never had a recipe fail – and it’s a lot easier to get into for a new cook than my more advanced favorites (cooks illustrated for example).

Serena
Serena
13 years ago

Holli Jo, one thing we do is make double batches of meatballs to keep in the freezer (easy subs or spaghetti & meatballs), and a package or two of ravioli (usually the veggie or veggie & cheese type). It doesn’t always stop us from eating out, but realistically with a toddler and two working parents eating out on weeknights is actually a bigger hassle than taking something from the freezer.

Andrea >> Become a Consultant
Andrea >> Become a Consultant
13 years ago

I’m not sure it’s a good idea to eat ramen or boxed mac & cheese. I’d be very concerned for my health if I ate that stuff. I make mac & cheese from scratch, using skim milk, real cheese, flour, butter and whole wheat pasta. I also make my own soup from whole wheat pasta and veggies. Perhaps it doesn’t work out to 12c a serving, but it isn’t exactly so much more that I’d go bust doing it.

Melsky
Melsky
13 years ago

I sometimes get produce that’s just about to go bad, like bananas or strawberries which I freeze for smoothies. Most supermarkets will have bags of these on sale from time to time.

Jennifer
Jennifer
13 years ago

Glad you hi-lighted this one. It was a great comment. People think it isn’t possible, however it is possible to eat a varied, healthy diet on a little bit of money. Most people just aren’t willing to make all the sacrifices in order to do that. But if you only have that much money to spend, what choice do you have?

gwinne
gwinne
13 years ago

I cook ramen in chicken broth (not the flavor packet), add sauted cabbage, peas, or whatever veggies we have on hand, and a bit of leftover chicken. It’s fabulous and *healthy*

Jay
Jay
13 years ago

$15/week for food in 1990 would correspond to about $25/week for food today. Still much lower than the USDA thrifty food plan. (http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/USDAFoodPlansCostofFood.htm) I’d revise #2 to read “Supplement with inexpensive foods of high nutritional value”. For example, beans and rice instead of animal protein. Beans in particular are very versatile, nutritious, and filling. Tuna is cheap, but the “Mock Tuna Salad” at allrecipes.com, made with garbanzo beans, is just as tasty and almost free if you start with dried beans. (BTW, if you have internet access you might not need a cookbook.) Oatmeal for breakfast, mock tuna salad for… Read more »

Sara
Sara
13 years ago

The one tip that really struck a chord with me was one that we don’t always hear too often – don’t let food go to waste. For me, I struggle with that – I’ll buy carrots and potatoes and then let them go bad without eating them all, when I could chop and freeze them.

Thanks for that reminder!

Jon
Jon
13 years ago

I never comment on blogs but just felt I had to make an exception. 🙂 The challenge that most of the western world has is that it is over fed and under nourished and so reading a blog like this is just like a breath of fresh air for me. As an opening salvo, I would like to suggest that everyone should eat like this, rather than stuffing their faces with empty calories (high fructose corn syrup, for example), loads of fat and far too much salt, never mind the pesticides and antibiotics. One of the real truths that I… Read more »

Alex
Alex
13 years ago

What the hell is wrong with you people?
“Breaking news! You can eat for only $15 per week! yaddayadda” Yeah? OF COURSE YOU CAN!

“Don’t eat junk food”, “don’t by soda”, etc… isn’t that just common sense? Do you americans really have to read an article to get that?

And what about “don’t throw food away?” Seriously. Most people in the world would never even think of throwing away something that could be eaten.

You’re so spoilt its disgusting.

Mary
Mary
13 years ago

gwinne, your ramen certainly sounds like an improvement on the original, but the ramen noodles are usually deep-fried and high in fat and calories. If you set this page to show the data for one ramen package (most people eat one package on their own, instead of the 1/2 package that the manufacturers consider a serving), you can see that it’s 371 calories and 13 g of fat, of which 7 g are saturated fat. The good news is you;re probably taking in less sodium in your dish because you don’t use their powdered broth. You can get egg noodles… Read more »

SAGA
SAGA
13 years ago

Stay in school kids.

damnn! i drink 15 dollars worth of coffee in a day

Siennalakes
Siennalakes
8 years ago
Reply to  SAGA

I know this is 5 years late, but…Duh. They DID stay in school. That’s why they are on a budget, because they are now in debt from going to school!

Not every one wants to waste money on fancy coffee! I don’t even drink coffee and I certainly don’t go to Starbucks for ridiculously expensive coffee! Unless you are not very smart…

Anon
Anon
13 years ago

I’ve heard the “fresh milk” is not even really all whole milk anymore. It’s cut with dried milk anyways. I was shocked to see the price of milk recently. But, foods that are frozen that include milk have not gone up. What’s up with that? Shhh…Don’t tell anyone I said that.

Dana
Dana
13 years ago

Sorry, but for some of us even supplementing noodles and other grain foods with tuna and similar is not good for us. I can get away with small amounts of rice and it doesn’t seem to hurt me but wheat kicks my ass. I’m not celiac, but researchers are finding that wheat is not half so good for people as we’ve been led to believe. It is not properly prepared most of the time to get rid of the natural chemicals in it that work as antinutrients, depleting B vitamins and the like. If you’re going to exist on fifteen… Read more »

Andrea >> Become a Consultant
Andrea >> Become a Consultant
13 years ago

If you don’t like wheat (or if you can’t eat it), check out your local health food store for other kinds of pasta. Brown rice pasta is healthy and works much like regular pasta, for example.

Kfish
Kfish
13 years ago

Yes, Alex, it is sad. And it’s not just Americans, either – here in Australia there are plenty of people that just don’t know how to cook. It’s not a skill that gets passed down any more. Menu planning, bulk staples shopping, basic baking … none of these are considered essential life skills any more.

Mike
Mike
7 years ago
Reply to  Kfish

I don’t see it as sad that cooking is no longer a skill that is passed down anymore than I see it as sad that I don’t need to be able to run a farm, make my own clothes, or wash my own clothes by hand. Now we have farmers, clothiers, and laundromats that satisfy these needs. Its called the division of labor. I hope to be so effective and profitable in my main occupation that I can afford to served the best products by the best providers while not going too far out of my way to do so.… Read more »

Sha
Sha
13 years ago

I’m staying in the college , and dun really have any chance to cook , do you have any tips to share how to save while in college?

godd
godd
13 years ago

It seems reasonable. Of course health is most important things.

yessum
yessum
13 years ago

Have to agree that one should NEVER eat out. I have a lot of friends in the service industry and it really hurts them to say this but, if you’re trying to save money in the culinary area, don’t even bother following the rules in this guide if you’re going to eat out. You can save HUNDREDS of dollars cooking for yourself. Eat out just once and you’ve totally blown months of scrounging.

Joanna
Joanna
13 years ago

Shop at Asian markets for produce and avoid products with corn starch or corn syrup. These two tips alone have saved me hundreds of dollars. I went to an Asian market last week and got two grapefruits, a basket of grapes, a cauliflower, a cucumber and a pint of strawberries for under $4. Even if half of it goes bad before I can eat it, it is still substantial savings. And after I was diagnosed with a corn allergy and had to cut out all corn stuff, my grocery bill literally halved. I had no idea I was spending that… Read more »

jdrbombay
jdrbombay
13 years ago

this sure brings back memories–potatos were a favorite. many meals could be made. with no car or money for even public transpotation the walk home with my 20lb. bag (cheaper}and my few other bags was a long one.I was pregnant and had a 2yr old at that time and weight of my purchases was always an important factor

mclaren
mclaren
13 years ago

Soups are grotesquely overpricewd. You can make your own much better tasting soup for so much less than you’d pay for Campbell’s or Progresso canned soul that it’s ridiculous. Also, cheap tuna + noodles + choose + a little cream of mushroom consomme will yield fantastic tuna noodle casserole that costs only a few pennies per serving but will last for 4 or 5 meals. In my experinece it’s no longer possile to eat decently for $1 per meal, but $15 to $1.75 per meal (accounting for inflation) is doable. Never ever shop while hungry! Don’t buy desserts or candy.… Read more »

Troy McConaghy
Troy McConaghy
13 years ago

You don’t need to spend money on a cookbook. Just look up recipies on the Web.

Daiko
Daiko
13 years ago

Wow! Great to read so many (mostly) positive comments. Dale: if you are going to use Gatorade (I do it too), try getting the powdered stuff and mixing it up. It’s less expensive that way because you don’t pay for all the packaging and water, and you can still dilute it (which is better for us anyway). Metamommy and others: good points about the brown rice and beans. I wish I’d known that back then: I was eating way too much processed white flour. Holli Jo: At our house there are several options to eating out on those “I can’t… Read more »

Daiko
Daiko
13 years ago

P.S. Jon: Thanks for the comments. As for $0.39/lb chicken, I think it is a symptom of the American food factory complex. Unless you are going to the farm, any chicken bought in the grocery (I suspect even the Bell & Evans) are processed in a similar way. Possibly even in the same factories. How to avoid that type of production is another problem faced by Americans, because it is all hidden from view.
________
Daiko

SamG
SamG
13 years ago

This is what I do: Pick a day or two (or three)in a week for cooking day. I’ll cook a big pot of something. Have a half for lunch or dinner today and the next day, then freeze another half in two containers, lebel the date and item. On otherdays of the week I’d eat whatever I cooked the day before, and bring out one of the frozen homemade food. I would just open my freezer and do some shopping for main dish for whatever I feel like. As for basic stuff such as bread or rice, salad or friuts,… Read more »

Prince of Thrift
Prince of Thrift
13 years ago

instead of buying a paperback cookbook, you and your readers should at least check out My-Online-Cookbook (http://www.my-online-cookbook.com).
It is another website/blog that I own. I do need to move it, from it’s current servers. So watch for new changes, in addition, I will be looking for additional writers/cooks for this, once it is on it’s new server.

iarenoob
iarenoob
13 years ago

Very nice! Great way to live frugal but I hope you didn’t get too hungry! I guess this also helps with a diet?

JD
JD
13 years ago

Remember that you get what you pay for…
I prefer to eat little but good quality food, rather than a large quantity of sh*t.

Shannon Cordray
Shannon Cordray
6 years ago
Reply to  JD

I agree with you on quality it taste so much better.

priya
priya
13 years ago

Another good idea for cheap and healthy snacks is to buy (in bulk) mixed seeds (linseeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds etc.), you can home roast them and freeze them. I make big batches of them and use on everything from salads, to veggies to cereal. Homemade flapjacks (granola bars but softer) can also be made at home very cheaply.

Pete
Pete
13 years ago

One way I’ve found to battle the food budget is to eat with family pot-luck stylee. My family, my wifes parents, sisters, brothers and respective familys will try to meet up once a week to eat together. We may make a easy stew or soup, one family will make a simple salad and another may provide home-made pie or cake. This way you get an awesome meal with plenty of leftovers to use for lunches and relatively cheaply. Also since we invested a little cash in a large crock-pot, we have saved a fortune. We go the crock-pot itself on… Read more »

Aaron Davidson
Aaron Davidson
13 years ago

Fortunately I do not have to eat at $15 or $25 a week. Our goal is to reduce food consumption down to $200/month not counting the few times we eat out.

Kraft Mac & Cheese is not unhealthy if eaten sparingly, the author is not advocating eating this every day. The same goes for ramen, you do not want to eat ramen all of the time, however back in college I saw plenty of people eat it on a daily basis with no short-term ill effects.

jack
jack
13 years ago

These are great tips and I have been getting better at saving money on groceries and actually using what I get. My problem is that I have some friends who only want to meet in restaurants, and I am not sure how to deal with that. When I tell them I am saving money they will offer to pay for the dinner, which is nice, but I think it would affect the friendship negatively if they always paid (yes, they have more money but still). They don’t want to come over and eat at my place when I’ve offered to… Read more »

Jill
Jill
13 years ago

I just had to chime in…I almost always cook from scratch. I don’t HAVE to be frugal, I can technically afford to pay more for my food, but I find that I can eat almost entirely organic on about 25-30$/week on average. I spend a bit more in the summer and fall then preserve that for the winter (drying, canning, freezing) so that I can eat well all year. If you have ANY space for a small garden, even a container of salad and a jar of sprouts, your produce bill will go down. You can save seeds from your… Read more »

Rika
Rika
13 years ago

I am so excited and pleased to read this thread! Thank you to Daiko and J.D. for starting the ball rolling. It’s really interesting for me to see how people live, and as far as I’m concerned, no one way is better than any other. We all do what fits best for our lifestyles, and we can all learn from each other. I am learning so much from reading this thread. Having said that, I have to agree with Alex – I am always shocked to the core when I hear of the amount of wastage that goes on in… Read more »

Julie
Julie
13 years ago

Remember in the “old” days when restaurants would claim that their cooking “tastes like homemade!”? Now, the food industry says that you can buy frozen food that is restaurant quality! No, thank you for the offer for restaurant quality, but I’d rather eat the food that used to be the gold standard. We used to eat out one night a week for “date night.” Then we realized that we were spending a lot of money for mediocre food. I collect vintage cookbooks from a time when food rationing was going on and when homemakers needed to be frugal out of… Read more »

Lisa
Lisa
8 years ago
Reply to  Julie

What are the names of these cookbooks. I’d like to have them too.

Julie
Julie
13 years ago

PS to McLaren: I made Chicken a la King over homemade toasted whole-what bread just last night!

I made chicken broth yesterday (from a whole chicken that I boiled for 5 hours while I did my thing around the house) and had all of that cooked chicken. Half went to the Chicken a la King and the the other half went to chicken salad for sandwiches. Lots of leftovers. I’d say the whole meal (with leftovers) cost about $4.

gwinne
gwinne
13 years ago

Mary, thanks for the info on the ramen. We do split the ramen into 2 (or sometimes 3) servings, and fat intake in my house is not a problem (well, actually, it is in that I need to get MORE fat into my kid!). Still, good to know…

Cinnamon J. Scudworth
Cinnamon J. Scudworth
13 years ago

As a single male in his mid-twenties, I feed myself on less than $30 per week, but it’s (mostly) not out of a sense of extreme frugality. It actually doesn’t feel that extreme. I’m just lazy. The last thing I want to do when I come home from work at 7:00 p.m. during the week is to go to the effort of cooking something. So, much like Daiko, I tend to cook one big meal on Sunday and make it last through the week. As a single person, I honestly don’t even know HOW I would spend more than $30… Read more »

Robin
Robin
13 years ago

My husband and I eat all but maybe 4 meals (those are eating out) a month for $160 per month. We eat pretty well and don’t feel deprived. We occasionally splurge on coke or ice cream, and I always have sweet tea (from bags) in the fridge… I’m drinking some now. We rarely have steak or shrimp, but that’s ok. $160 a month works out to about $20 per week per person. It’s not rocket science. It just takes discipline.

MVP
MVP
13 years ago

On the subject of cookbooks, check out Dining on a Dime by Tawra Kellam and Jill Cooper. It’s got some excellent and unique (as well as some radical) ideas for making your food budget stretch. Some tips are a bit odd, but it depends on how much you want to save. The point is, you CAN eat well and healthy on a tight budget, it just takes a little effort and creativity. And I’ve NEVER paid full price for a cookbook. You can usually find them at garage sales and thrift stores. Yes, you can find recipes on the internet,… Read more »

Laura
Laura
13 years ago

I can eat and feed other people for $20/week and eat (I think) exceptionally well. I shop at ethnic stores for special ingredients, shop sales and don’t eat a bunch of pre-made foods. I can afford to spend much more than this, and sometimes we will have a week where we eat out excessively, but I’ve done $20/week for a couple of months at a time and been perfectly OK, it’s more of a personal challenge than a necessity for me (thankfully). Tonight I’m having shittake rice soup and bin chow (vietnamese rice flour creps) and it will be well… Read more »

Aaron Davidson
Aaron Davidson
13 years ago

I just wanted to reiterate the fact that canned tuna is cheap, healthy and great.

Bill the Splut
Bill the Splut
13 years ago

I’m grateful for this article just for the dry milk tip! I bought some today and put it in my tea, and it’s great. I can’t drink tea without milk, and I always thought that my only other option was Cremora, which tastes how Ajax smells. The 5 quarts’ worth of dry milk should last me a LONG time, for the cost of less than 2 gallons of milk. You CAN eat take-out cheaply–there’s an Indian place near me that sells a “Bread Basket,” 4 loaves of naan. Each loaf is a meal in itself, and it’s only $6.95. Naan… Read more »

Steve
Steve
13 years ago

If you want to eat cheap:

1. Make your food yourself

2. Eat unrefined complex carbs like dried legumes,
whole grains, whole grain pastas.

3. Eat seasonal vegetables and seasonal fruits

4. Write down what you buy and where you bought it.
Sooner or later you will learn enough to buy
cheaper.

5. When making recipes substitute what you have for
similar ingredients instead of going out and
buying more stuff.

shares