Thursday, October 16, 2008

$25 a week menu

There's been a flurry of e-mails going around the frugal living blog-o-sphere about the possibility of living for a week on $25 worth of food. It stemmed from the amount that a typical food stamp person gets. I read this post at Cheap Healthy Good, where she randomly picked a zip code, found the nearest stores, picked no more than two, looked at the sales flyers, and tried to keep under $25.

Whew! She did an excellent job, I must say, especially since she's in NY and ended up with a city in Michigan. In the past, for fun, I've done a similar exercise (allowing myself to use things in the pantry, but counting their cost). I've also done a 3-week trend, where you use the "unused" money from week 1 for week two. Of course, economies of scale mean that if I'm trying to feed my family of three on $75/ week, it's not too terribly hard. And the most recent times that I've tried this, it was at least a year ago - and food prices have gone crazy since then. So I thought I'd give it another try, using my local stores.

So here were my rules: I'm starting with zero in the pantry. I'm shopping at only two stores - Trader Joe's and Tri County Produce. I know they aren't necessarily your typical grocery store, but that's the point. I rarely shop at the grocery stores because they don't have the best prices. If I'm not allowed to "build up a pantry" by shopping sales at the grocery stores (and cherry picking - which requires shopping at 4-5 stores), then I'm not going to shop at a regular store for this test. Frankly, the sales fliers don't tell you enough about pricing. I see some pasta on sale for $1.25/lb, but what if the store brand is 0.80? It's not listed on the flier. See my point? You don't know the generics prices...

I'd like to point out that I'm not actually going to try eating this way for a week. But it could be done.

The food:

Apples, 3lb bag, Tri County, 3.00
bananas, 7 @0.19 each, TJ's, 1.33
bread, 1 loaf whole wheat, TJ's, 2.00
pasta, 1 lb, TJ's, 1.00
peanut butter, 1 lb, TJ's, 1.79
jam, TJ's, 2.00
milk, 1 gal, TJ's, 3.19
canned tomatoes, 28 oz, TJ's, 1.19
carrots, 2 lb, Tri County, 0.66
1 onion, Tri County, 0.20
1 head garlic, Tri County, 0.40
broccoli, 1 lb, Tri County, 0.89
canned salmon, 13 oz, TJ's, 2.39
oatmeal, 10 oz steel cut, Tri County, 1.25
canned beans, 1 can, TJ's, 0.69
salt, Tri County, 0.50
oil, 16 oz, 1.50
Total: $23.98

Save the last $1 for some rice and dried beans next week, maybe spring for some salsa.

The meals - this is where boredom sets in, breakfast and lunch are same every day. But I ate like that as a kid...
Day 1-7: breakfast: oatmeal with diced apple, milk.
Day 1-7: lunch: PB&J (2 T peanut butter, 1 T jam), banana
Day 1-7: snack: apple, except there's only 13 in a 3# bag, so I come up short one day.

Day 1-4: pasta (1 cup) with sauce made with canned tomatoes, canned beans, onions, garlic, one diced carrot. Cup of milk. Stir-fried veggies.
Day 3-7: salmon patties (salmon, bread crumbs from bread heels, salt) fried in oil. Stir fried broccoli and/or carrot. Cup of milk.
Added bonus: salmon patties makes about 5, so you'll see that days 3 and 4 you get BOTH pasta and salmon.

Calories per day (approximate)
2 c. 1% milk: 240
2 T peanut butter: 180
1 T jam: 100
2 slices bread: 200
1 c. oatmeal: 100
2 apples: 120
1 large banana: 100
1 T oil: 120
1 c pasta: 200
1/2 c. sauce: 50
assorted veggies: 25
1/2 c beans: 100
1/5 can salmon: 125

Total for the day when doubled up on pasta and salmon: 1760, which is a fine # for me, but not a large male.
Total for pasta only day: 1645
Total for salmon only day: 1510

In any event, this is still considered "dieting" for me. I did make sure that I got at least 3 servings each of fruit and veggies per day...a total of about 5 lbs of fruit and 5 lbs of veggies for the week.

Still, I ended up with $1.02 left for the week, plus there's leftover peanut butter (18 Tbsp), pasta (1/2 lb, unless I eat it on the hungry days), salt, oil, and garlic.

Lesson learned? You can do it. It's tough, it takes serious planning and repetition (at least until you use those extra $1 to build up a pantry, instead of say, buying a soda). I think the point, however, is that food stamps aren't supposed to be your only source of food.


Jordon said...

I lost 13 lbs in only two weeks by obeying this one easy rule

Amy B said...

Wow, thank you for doing all the work of counting the calories as well as how much the food costs. I may just borrow your menu next month as I am trying to save money and lose weight! heh heh.