After the first week of extremely frugal food budgeting, you can be far more creative with your menu choices, living beyond potatoes, rice and beans. Here are the results of my research shopping in a Los Angeles Safeway supermarket in April of 2011 for food additions beyond that first frugal week.
WEEK TWO THROUGH SIX
Much of the foods bought in Week One won't need to be bought again for some time. For example, the rice, dried beans, oil, peanut butter, Crisco, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, white flour and oatmeal should last more than two or more weeks. Things like the apples, vegetables and maybe the sugar (depending on your sweet tooth) will probably need to be purchased each week. This gives us some leeway in the budget planning for more food choices that fall within the 450 budget.
In Week Two, non-vegetarians will be able to add meat. I found these are the cheapest options for the purposes of this theoretical budget:
- Uncooked whole chickens - $5.46 each (97 cents a pound). Four chickens for four people can be used in more ways than most cookbooks list. You will want to use all the meat and skin in meals, and make soup from the necks and bones. Chicken is extremely versatile!
- Pork loins, boneless whole - for change from chicken, at $29.45 ($3.29 a pound), a huge hunk of pork like this can certainly last a week if thoughtfully cooked. Think stirfry meals and pork dumplings to stretch out the meat.
- Catfish fillets at 90 cents a pound (buy four $5.30 fillets) could also be traded out for chicken for a week. Fry them in strips with a cornmeal breading to stretch them out, add meat scraps to soup stock, and make fillet steaks with rice to make things last.
Chicken will obviously be your main meat staple, since it is by far the cheapest and most versatile animal protein on the market. If you shop the sales, you can even plan a few weeks where you can add in ground round beef or other red meat (assuming you are willing to spend the other days of the week relying more on rice and beans or peanut butter for your protein needs).
Also in Week Two, I added these staples -
- Powdered CountryTime Lemonade - $8.99 for 5lbs/2.5oz (10.9 cents an oz), which makes 34 quarts of Vitamin C-added beverages
- Brown Sugar - Safeway brand, $1.69 for 2lbs (5.4 cents an oz)
- Wheat Flour - Safeway brand, $1.69 for a 5lb bag (2.2 cents on oz)
- Raisins - $3.99 for 32 oz (12.5 cents an oz)
- Cornmeal - Safeway brand, 5lbs for $5.19 (6.6 oz)
- Garlic Cloves - One clove head for 30 cents
In Week Three I added -
- Jelly - your choice grape or strawberry, Safeway or Smuckers brand, 2lbs for $3.59 (11.3 cents an oz)
- Powdered Cocoa - Herseys unsweetened, $4.59 for 8oz (57.4 cents an oz)
- Dry Milk - $7.19 for 1lb/10oz (28.1 cents an oz)
- Nutmeg - $5.35 (small container - nutmeg is expensive but you only use a little)
- Pepper - $5.79, McCormick's 8.75 oz (66.2 cents an oz)
- Multivitamins - $5
- Coffee, Folgers Medium blend, $7.99 for 2lbs/20oz (23.6 cents an oz)
By a month in, you can add more vitamins, more fruits and vegetables, buy honey and walnuts, mayonnaise, vinegar, yeast for breads, eggs, pasta and maple syrup. Occasionally splurge on cookies and crackers at the dollar store. Buy seeds for growing your own herbs and potted tomatoes and place your new plants in the sunniest windows in your home.
As each week passes, you keep picking up the absolute basics, and then add a few more unique items to serve your menu needs. Think in terms of price per ounce. Buy the generic brands, shop the sales and remember to look on the bottom shelves for the bulk sizes of everything. Dried food in bags (ie - beans, rice, flour, nuts) will stretch your budget out longer than anything in cans, in jars or frozen. Since you will be doing things like baking your own breads, you will be surprised at how much simple staple foods like flour, sugar, baking powder and salt can go.