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Thread: Feed a Family of 4 on $10 a Day

  1. #1
    Elite Member celeb_2006's Avatar
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    Default Feed a Family of 4 on $10 a Day

    feed-a-family-of-4-on-10-a-day: Personal Finance News from Yahoo! Finance

    When I was growing up, my mother would serve something she called "economy dinner." Pasta, sauce, maybe a quarter-pound of hamburger meat mixed in and a little cheese sprinkled on top, baked together in the oven. We didn't understand the name, but we loved the dish.

    I was thinking I need to find my own "economy dinner," as I had yet another supermarket freak-out while watching my grocery receipt print out and curl down two feet behind the register. At home with the receipt in front of me, I decided to crunch some numbers to see if I could feed my family of four for less than $100 a week.

    Would it be possible to do 84 meals for less than $100? With room to spare, it turns out. According to my calculations, we could do it on $72.38. We'd be crying of boredom after Day 2. But we wouldn't be hungry.

    If we ate cereal and milk for breakfast, a PB&J and an apple for lunch, and protein-enriched pasta with store-brand marinara and a couple of carrots sticks and broccoli or green beans for dinner, we could get by on $10.34 per day.

    I won't bore you with the math, but this meal plan cuts out all the extras. No snacks, no OJ, no organic milk at $5.99 per gallon, no Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top of that pasta, no frozen yogurt at night in front of DWTS. The husband brown bags it to the office. I'll admit I included my coffee, at $2.15 per week, because I consider it essential, along with milk for the kids at every meal.

    This exercise has been an eye-opener for me. Now that I know our family's bargain-basement dinner costs $3.40, I see the foods I thought were cheap (like a large pizza for $10) are pricey in comparison. And the foods I knew were expensive, such as a $10 steak, fish that's $14 per pound, or deli meat at $8.99 per pound, now seem top dollar.

    Some of the splurges, like the organic milk, I'd opt to add back in. But that package of Pepperidge Farm Nantuckets does more to the bottom line (both bottom lines, really) than I've cared, up until now, to realize.

    To get out of our pasta rut, I consulted with Leslie Bonci, a dietician at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, about other nutrient-rich foods that pack a lot of bang for the buck. Here's what she suggested:

    Eggs: 99 cents per dozen, can be breakfast, lunch, dinner or hard-boiled for snacks.

    Canned beans, like kidneys or chick peas: 79 cents for a 16-ounce can.

    A five-pound roasting chicken ($5) could yield two dinners. For the first meal, roast with potatoes and carrots and eat half of the chicken. For the second meal, make a stir-fry with the leftover chicken and a bag of frozen mixed veggies ($1.29 for a 16-ounce bag) and serve over brown rice (99 cents for a 16-ounce bag).

    Oatmeal costs $3.69 for a 42-ounce canister and has 30 servings. That could replace at least $7 worth of boxed cereal, and the oatmeal is more filling.

    Bananas, at 49 cents a pound, cost less than most fruits, especially those "select" peaches and nectarines at $1.99 per pound. Bananas are definitely cheaper and healthier than the sugary granola bars I send in my daughter's lunch.

    Texturized Veggie Protein, a lean meat substitute that's a lot like ground beef and can be added to pasta sauce or tacos, is $2.69 for 10 ounces.

  2. #2
    Gold Member Janet296's Avatar
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    I think it possible but no quick foods. You have to make most of your meals from scratch. A really inexpensive meal where I live is Red Beans and Rice. It's delicious and cheap to make.

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    Elite Member LynnieD's Avatar
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    It's possible, but would be difficult EVERY day you know? Gotta mix it up too. Different fruits, veggies. And buy stuff when its on sale in addition.

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    Elite Member qwerty's Avatar
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    Also, one must factor in that the average American, judging anecdotally as well by our ever increasing girth, eats much more than what this author budgeted daily and weekly. If you want to put your family on a diet, this works though.

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    They didn't mention chili. A can of beans, a can of tomato sauce, a pound of ground beef and a package of seasoning. We use grass fed beef and organic tomato sauce but it's still economical.

    Oatmeal and peanut butter are staples in our house too.

    And for the roasted chicken, you can pick the bones clean and use the small pieces for chicken salad, chicken quesadillas, chicken pesto flatbread wraps.

    And we have breakfast for dinner once a week. Eggs and grits, French toast, pancakes, that kind of thing.

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    Elite Member McJag's Avatar
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    I love breakfast for dinner!
    I didn't start out to collect diamonds, but somehow they just kept piling up.-Mae West

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    Elite Member burnt_toast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by travelbug View Post
    And for the roasted chicken, you can pick the bones clean and use the small pieces for chicken salad, chicken quesadillas, chicken pesto flatbread wraps.
    I also like to take the cleaned chicken bones, break them in half if I can and boil it all for 2 - 3 hours in water. Strain and you have homemade chicken broth that is great to cook with (a little fattier than the canned stuff but once it cools you can skim the fat off the top).

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    Gold Member philbert_wormly's Avatar
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    With this whole thing you would have to go really old school with your cooking and it would also help to know more than one cuisine.

    So it would be possible but someone would really have to study up on their cooking a bit or things would get really boring fast.

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    Gold Member BigBen's Avatar
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    And one parent would have to either not work or devote their entire evening to cooking instead of spending time with their family. Also everyone in the family would have to be a non-picky eater (like no digestive or sensory disorders) and nobody could be a vegetarian. It works under very specific circumstances, but it's not always that simple. I agree about cutting out needless snacks and treats though, people totally go overboard with that crap.
    "Not only do we embrace it, we take it out for drinks, get it absolutely steaming drunk, leg hump it and then leave it covered in shaving foam and a stolen Chuck E Cheese outfit in its own bath with no recollection of how it got there." -Kittylady on the sad and pathetic and strange.

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    Elite Member Jezi's Avatar
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    Wow, are groceries that expensive in the US? We spend about $120-130 a week for 3 adults, 5 cats and 2 dogs. And that includes tobacco (not for me though) and way too many snacks. We could bring it down to maybe $90 if none of us smoked and we cut out the snacks.

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    Elite Member MontanaMama's Avatar
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    I don't know, I understand budget, but I just can't give up good food. I would much much much rather find other places to cut. Plus, I get the major heebie jeebies from canned food. Soup & tuna are about all I'm willing to open a can for.

    As for this woman, no one should serve their family non-organic milk, EVER. Major hormones and health issues from that stuff.
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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    kids don't need to drink milk with their meals. i never understood that about north america. growing up, i had milk in my breakfast (usually cereal) and then a small glass of milk after school. we drank water at meal times.
    I'm open to everything. When you start to criticise the times you live in, your time is over. - Karl Lagerfeld

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    Elite Member LynnieD's Avatar
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    My kids almost exclusively only drink water---no crap juices or milk. In the fall I will buy Cider once or twice, but that's it.

    And groceries CAN be very expensive in the U.S--at least the fresh/better foods. Packaged processed stuff is CHEAP as hell though, hence the reason for many of the discussions we have had here---obesity, medical issues, etc.

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    Elite Member o0Amber0o's Avatar
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    I always drink a glass of fat free milk with dinner. I'm not quite getting the milk hatred, it's not horrible for you. I also don't know if people realize this but organic milk has a much longer shelf life than regular milk, so in my opinion it's worth the extra dollar just for the longevitiy of it.

    Anyway, to the topic at hand. I am pretty big on making pasta dishes. I live alone so if I make a baked ziti dinner it's going to last me all week as well as give me an opportunity to offer someone to come over for dinner or bring some to my mother. I'm also a big breakfast for dinner person. I do think tonight I'm going to use the suggestion on the roasted chicken. I'm always looking for cheap meal ideas, and in general trying to get better about my grocery shopping habits. I feel like I don't shop smart and don't really know about good meal ideas and such. I struggle with groceries a lot.
    All you can do at life is play along and hope that sometimes you get it right.

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    Elite Member burnt_toast's Avatar
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    I make a full menu every week, planning enough for dinner each night to ensure packed lunches for myself during the week as well as one leftover night. This week's menu:

    saturday: sandwiches and melon
    sunday: friend chicken, homemade mac/cheese, green beans
    monday: beef stroganoff w/ broccoli
    tuesday: veggie omlettes
    wednesday: chili
    thursday: chicken w/ rosemary and apples
    friday: leftovers

    Family of 5, weekly grocery bill is $100 - $150.

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