A friend has extended a challenge I cannot refuse. Can I feed a family of four for a week for $100? I had been thinking about this very idea when my friend and I talked about this issue. Many families are cutting their budget wherever possible and food, though necessary, is no exception. Families are turning to fast foods or processed foods which are very cheap but nutritionally a black hole. They feel they cannot afford "more expensive" wholesome foods.
I agree that food costs have risen tremendously and that fresh fruits and vegetables are often costly. Though I live in a rural area, most of the crops grown are row crops like soybeans, cotton and rice. The last few years have seen an increase in farmers' markets with locally grown produce. However, the prices at most farmer's markets are fairly high as well.
So what are the rules of this challenge? Starting Monday, I will feed my family breakfast, lunch and dinner for seven days and try to stay at $100. I have a break in that my husband eats lunch at work 4 or 5 days a week but my kids take their lunch every day. I will still serve 28 breakfasts, at least 23 lunches and 28 dinner meals. That works out to about $1.27 a meal. I admit this is a big challenge and I'm not sure I can do it.
My family rarely drinks soda, so that is another break in the budget. To further save money, I will use the sales circular from Kroger to very carefully plan meals. I have been looking through my cookbooks for recipes with few, cheap ingredients. That means my family will probably have oatmeal, bean soup or egg frittata to eat next week. I also plan to stretch meat to cover more than one meal. For example I may use 1/2 a roasted chicken in a pasta dish one night and the rest of the chicken to make chicken salad for lunches. I will buy whatever fresh vegetables or fruit is in season, or whatever canned and frozen veggies offers the best price. I will NOT buy processed or fast foods for a meal. Our meals will not be different from what we usually eat however.
I am not including pet food in this challenge as I have 7 animals but mostly because many families don't have pets. I also have a couple of animals with sensitive digestive systems and I will not upset their stomachs to buy cheaper food. Cleaning up animal barf is not part of the challenge. I don't mind trying cheaper generic brands for my family as the quality should be the same.
So next week should be very interesting. I love a challenge and will try my best. Hopefully we will all learn something. I'd like to add a quick update on my couponing efforts to save money. January was my last "good" month. Since then it seems like there has been a dramatic drop in the coupons I can find to use. March was my worst month yet with only $15.25 in coupon savings. Most of the coupons I see are for processed foods I don't use, or cleaning and toiletry items.
So check back Tuesday to see my menu and my first grocery receipt. I will shop on Monday and Thursday as always. Also, you may want to read my blog on jonesboro.com this week for a very interesting look at the state of American health. I think you'll be surprised.