Could You Survive a Month with only $50 in Groceries?

My college days of living on ramen and instant mac and cheese are far behind me, so it’s not that kind of question– but rather, if you were to limit your budget to $50 a week, could you eat 3 square meals a day, and eat well? “Eating well” to me, is natural food, meat, grain, vegetables… I realize this is not a new concept. People have been doing the Food Stamp challenge for a while now, in fact an article last year on it inspired me to purchase this book, but at the time I was more interested in the principles of the high fiber diet than actually adhering to the fiscal budgeting. What’s changed since then? Not much, besides a hefty car repair bill and the news spewing over Gwyneth Paltrow’s Food Stamp Challenge failure. The two thoughts combined in my brain last night, and I turned to my husband to ask his thoughts on taking the month of May and limiting ourselves to $50 a week in groceries. I could see the saver’s gleam in his eye as he asked “Sure. On the bean diet?” I glanced at my beloved diet-changing inspiration laying on the coffee table, and thought ‘Maybe…. but most people wouldn’t have this resource, or people like my mother avoid beans like the plague– either through dislike or the concept that there would be excessive flatulence on such a diet (there isn’t, by the way). The average American would require meat and bread– so maybe we should try that.’ Now, I’m not going to wreck my personal diet of low-gluten pseudo-vegetarianism, because my body would absolutely rebel if I flooded my system with gluten– but with the advent of grilling season, it makes sense to round out the diet a little with more meat…. and maybe we’ll throw bread in a little more, no promises. So! We have the concept…. and after sleeping on it, I’m totally pumped to get started! Next step: GOOGLE! For those of you who don’t know, I am a total google-junkie. If I have enough free time I will sit and think of random things to search, just to explore the wonderful, zany internet. So, with my two budget cookbooks on hand (“Wildly Affordable Organic” and “$7 A Meal Cookbook”) I perused the interwebs for menu inspiration; and it did not disappoint. In fact, one of the first sites I found has a week-to-week grocery purchase and menu update:

All right, with that inspiration, let’s draw up a menu for next week…. (Note, everything I’ve seen incorporates things that are already in your pantry– cooking basic staples, and spices. Everyone’s pantry is different, and if you find you don’t have a lot of things you’re seeing in the recipes you want to make, make a staples list and purchase those items as extras when you can afford them.)

Menu (For breakfast, we eat cereal, and we have leftovers/sandwiches planned for lunches, so my menu plan is dinner-specific)

Monday: Red bean Chili with cornbread

Tuesday: Roast chicken thighs with caribbean rice & green beans

Wednesday: Slow Cooker Spaghetti-Os

Thursday: Red bean Chili casserole

Friday: tofu-fried rice

Saturday: -Pantry/grill night-

Sunday: Lasagna


Sharp Cheddar 2.49
Chicken thighs 3.11
Gluten-free cornbread mix 3.49
Meat & cheese for sandwiches 12.81
Cereal 4.00
Milk 1.99
Half & Half 2.69
Parmesean Cheese 2.99
Tomato Sauce/Crushed tomatoes .99
Penut butter crackers 2.50
Bottled Water 2.99
Onions 1.69
Potatoes 1.99
Carrots 1.29
Celery 1.29
Peppers 5.49

 Grand Total:                                                                                                                              $51.80

So, we went over goal by $1.80… but not too shabby for the first week. It was definitely a challenge, and I can already see areas where we could improve to save more money– like scouring for a better deal on lunch meats, but it’s a good start. Woot!