Friday, July 25, 2008

Can a family eat on $100 a week?

If I take a look at the grocery budget from a couple years ago, I'd say yes. Not so sure now. My grocery list has simplified over the last two years, yet the amount spent has gone up by about 20-25%. I've even eliminated some convenience foods, and have cut my coffee consumption down considerable and the daily energy drinks are gone.

Growing kids have changed the quantities of many items, but the other changes really should have offset any increase. Carrots, apples, grapes and bulk cashews and sunflower seeds go quite a bit further, for less, than yogurt covered raisins, potato chips and prepackaged individual sized trail mix. Not seeing a big savings though.

Inflation. Ouch.

Wenchypoo has a link to the MSN article Can a family eat on $100 a week? by Melinda Fulmer. The article details the budgeting and dietary issues of the author's challenge to feed her family of four on $100/week. She almost made it, but considers it a win at $105.03.

From Wenchypoo:
We could probably do it if FOOD was the only thing counted--no sundries at all--eating organically. In fact, I'll try it next week, since this week's organic order has already been placed.

I wonder if the article means $100/week in PRICE or COST PER SERVING? All they say is "no coupons, gardens, free food, etc."--all must come from a grocery store of some sort.

I've written the author for clarification, and told her of my intentions to take her up on this challenge using organic food. Right away I have the advantage by not having kids to feed, and multiple food allergies to deal with.

I'm curious about the answers. I think I might just try $125/week, for my family of five, during the month of August. It's back to school time, so I'll already be working on stricter meal plans, with early morning breakfasts and packed lunches. Working out dinner menus for the week at the same time isn't too much of a stretch.

It's easier if all the household, health/bath, and dog items are not included in the weekly total. If they are, I'll just need to be a bit more diligent in preparing oat/flax muffins and waffles in advance for breakfasts. And keeping baked goods going for lunches/snacks. There will not be much room for prepackaged items.

I'll try two weeks with just grocery chains (Kroger, Publix, Whole Foods, Trader Joes), then two weeks with my favorite asian & farmers' market back on the list. I know right now which weeks will have the greater variety of produce, and the lower cost. The two weeks of just grocery chains will have an offset in fuel cost, since I can ride my bike to the store and leave the gas guzzler at home. I'll be going every day, but I can burn extra calories while I do. The farmers and asian markets are across town, so they'll be a once a week thing those last two weeks.

The toughest thing for me will be figuring out alternatives to the food bars I take on rides and runs. Replacing those prepackaged sources of balanced carbs & proteins will take some experimenting. If I'm going to put the kids through this though, I need to be prepared to cut out my $2/bar convenience food.


The sidebar at MSN contained a link to a similar challenge last November by MP Dunleavy. She attempted to cut the grocery bill for her family of three in half. It was an entertaining article, as she weighed the high value of her husband's helpful trip to the grocery store against the extra $33 he spent. They exceeded the slashed budget, but found several ways they could gradually cut back on costs for the future.

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