Jul
11
2012

Reader Question: How Can I Eat For $20-$25 A Week?

by Kimberlee Stokes Affiliate Link Disclosure B

Q:   I would like to know if your readers have any suggestions for a tight food budget of approximately $20-$25/week for one person? I am able to shop with coupons which should extend my budget a bit. Any tips or ideas, including meal suggestions would be helpful. Thank you so much in advance.

A: Wow–Things are really tight for you, but I think this is doable.

General Ideas

Buy cheaper foods: Keep your overall costs lower by purchasing cheaper foods such as beans, rice, eggs, peanut butter, tortillas, ground beef, tuna, etc.. You may want to shop at a discount grocer such as Aldi or Save A Lot. You can also check local produce stands for good prices on fruits and vegetables.

Buy what’s on sale: Base your meals around the items that are deeply discounted each week at your local store. These items are called “loss leaders” and are usually on the front page of the store ad. (Turkeys during November; hot dogs, corn and watermelon for the 4th of July, etc.)

Freeze some for later: Take a look at my Easy Meal Plans for Chicken (here and here) and Ground Beef (here and here) for some ideas of how to deal with larger portions of meat and still have a varied diet. You probably won’t purchase packages as large as I do, but these plans can help you as a single person.

Find Resources: When things have been really tight for us, I have found that there are many resources available to help with food. Check with local churches to find a food pantry. Connect with another single person to possibly share larger purchases with. Another idea is to cook a double recipe for something and trade a meal with another single person.

 

Sample Grocery List and One Week Meal Plan

Buy:
1 dozen eggs $2
1 package boneless chicken breasts $6
1 half gallon milk $2.50
1 canister of oatmeal $1.50
1 loaf bread (freeze half) $2.00
2 bananas $1.00
1 16 ounce bagged salad $2.00 (or buy romaine and wash and shred it yourself)
1 package flour tortillas $1.00
1 8 oz. block of cheese $2.50
1 jar salsa $2.00
1 bag frozen broccoli $1.00
1 small jar peanut butter $1.50

 

Breakfasts:

Scrambled eggs, toast  x2

Toast, banana

Oatmeal x2

Homemade waffles x2 (recipe here–assuming you have flour and oil on hand. If not, you may have to eat oatmeal more this week and purchase the flour and oil next week.)

 

Lunches:

Salad with Italian Chicken (recipe here)

Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Sliced boiled eggs, salad

Smoothie made from milk, one banana and 2 tablespoons peanut butter (frozen bananas are best)

Egg Salad (assuming you have mayonnaise on hand)

Peanut Butter Sandwich x2

 

Dinners:

Cheese Quesadillas (directions here) with salsa

Chicken Enchiladas (recipe here), steamed broccoli x2

Fried Eggs

Salad with Italian Chicken

Scrambled eggs with salsa

Oatmeal Pancakes

 

It’s not glamorous, but in an emergency situation you would at least have food to eat. Several items will last longer than one week such as the oatmeal, bread, salsa and peanut butter, which will leave room in the budget for other items and a more varied diet in the weeks to come.

I would definitely suggest finding ways to get more vegetables in by buying what’s on sale or checking local produce stands. I have also found that eating more protein in the morning and saving the carbs for dinner helps me to feel better during the day.

Can you help this reader? What suggestions do you have? Leave a comment. :)

 

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{ 133 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeri January 15, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Just a note to consider for those of you with college age kids: Our 3 kids and our daughter-in-law and son-in-law are in college in Oklahoma. Since money is so tight, they applied for food stamps and actually got them. I never thought this would be possible, but as long as they have a work-study position or are employed 20hrs a week, they are eligible-even if they live in the dorms and opt for a meal card! All of ours rent off campus because it is cheaper than the dorms, but this really has helped us out. My husband makes way more than the average salary, but when you are helping out kids and both sets of grandparents that money goes out the window quickly.

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MacG February 7, 2013 at 6:35 pm

With left over cold chicken shread it or chunk it (bite size), mix with one can of mixed veggies drained (the ones with potatoes $.50 on sale), a few dashes of pepper and a couple table spoons of mayo. Serve on a crispy corn tortilla like a tostada.

If you have a crockpot use that to cook dried beans for 8 hours, (beans, water, salt and garlic powder. A couple cups of dried beans will go a long way for one person. Eat a bowl of beans, then mash rest to make bean burritos or tostadas for another day. You can add cheese and salsa for a variety.

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Kathy February 26, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Don’t add salt to those beans in the crockpot til after they are done. It makes them harder to get soft.

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Kimberlee February 26, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Thanks Kathy. :)

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Nicole February 13, 2013 at 1:50 am

I too try to spend about $25 a week on groceries. I buy almost all my fruits and veggies at farmer’s markets. I buy meat only when on sale, in larger portions, and portion it before I freeze it. I tried buying a whole chicken for the first time because it was only $5 and found a youtube video to help me butcher it. It was actually very easy and I had multiple chicken cuts to use in different meals. Plus, if you save the leftover rib cages in the freezer, you can make your own chicken stock or chicken soup later. I also buy a lot of pasta and sauce because my local grocer has them buy one, get one free a lot. I like to cook, so that helps me out. I prepare most of my meals on my own rather than buying more expensive, convenient pre-prepared ones. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I have all the time in the world to make everything from scratch. I work 7 days a week. I just pick certain days to go to the store and then prep and portion before sticking the items in the fridge or freezer. When I make a meal, I’ll make a large one so I can save the leftovers and not cook on my busier days. So that is my advice for a $25 a week grocery budget. Happy Shopping!

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Virginia K April 17, 2013 at 11:36 pm

Our grocery budget is $300/month for 4 people. As for your buy list…we buy our bread a the discount bread store. That $2 bread at the retail store is $.50 at the discount store. We freeze it and use a loaf a week or as needed. But we keep in the fridge so it stays fresh. Works great. We make our own salsa…the equivalent of a blender/pitcher full for about $2. Easy recipe….cilantro, crushed tomatoes, onions, jalapeno, garlic, little salt, pepper. Never use jar again. Lately bananas have been $.49 a pound at target…so we get them there. Otherwise we buy produce at farmers market….much better prices. We usually get eggs on sale for $.99…just have to watch your sale papers. We get 3-4 dozen. They will last us all month. We wait and get fresh chicken for 1.49-$1.69/lb. We never buy the prepacked frozen chicken…way over priced. The rest of your list is spot on. We are a family of 4 living on$2500 a month. We barely get by, but are very careful with our money. I know we can make some more cuts, but as Dave Ramsey says…baby steps to get there. I think you are great and it helps me to keep focused when I read what you are doing with your family to save. Thanks.

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Kimberlee April 18, 2013 at 12:11 am

Thanks for those tips Virginia. I need to try making my own salsa. :)

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Thriftygal May 6, 2013 at 2:23 pm

I’m single and I am using the list below for the month. ( I do want to let you know I have a good foundation of good in my pantry. I have bread (frozen in freezer, rice, quinoa, couscous, coconut milk, almond milk, Cheese slices for sandwiches & quesadillas.

Hope this helps!

Love your blog! :-)

Aldi’s Monthly Grocery List(For One Person)
======================================
Items Qty Price Total
Asparagus (Pkg) 1 $1.59 $1.59
Green Peppers (Pkg) 1 $0.99 $0.99
Plums 2 $0.35 $0.70
Nectarines 2 $0.35 $0.70
Cucumbers 2 $0.59 $1.18
Grapefruits 2 $0.49 $0.98
Mangoes 2 $0.55 $1.10
Grapes 1 $1.98 $1.98
Pears (Bag) 1 $1.69 $1.69
Bananas (2.5 lb) 1 $1.00 $1.00
Navel Oranges (Bag) 1 $1.69 $1.69
Mushrooms (Pkg) 1 $1.29 $1.29
Celery (Pkg) 1 $1.39 $1.39
Potatoes (5 lb bag) 1 $1.99 $1.99
Onions (Bag) 1 $1.69 $1.69
Carrots (Bag) 1 $1.29 $1.59
Eggs (Dozen) 1 $1.59 $1.59
O.J. (1/2 Gal) 1 $1.89 $1.89
Juice (1/2 Gal) 2 $0.99 $1.98
Deli Turkey (Pkg) 1 $2.49 $2.49
Frozen-Tilapia (Bag) 1 $3.99 $3.99
Cornish Hen 1 $2.89 $2.89
Turkey Sausage 1 $3.69 $3.69
Bag salad Mix (bag) 1 $1.99 $1.99
Flour Soft Tortillas 1 $0.99 $0.99
Frozen Veggies 1 $1.09 $1.09
Frozen Mixed Fruit 1 $1.99 $1.99
Frozen Meal 2 $1.29 $2.58
Frozen Bean Burritos 3 $0.33 $0.99

Subtotal: $47.12
Sales Tax Rate: 6.00%
Tax: $2.83
Total: $50.01

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Thriftygal May 6, 2013 at 2:25 pm

I have a good foundation of FOOD in my pantry is what I meant! :-)

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Kimberlee May 7, 2013 at 8:10 am

Thanks so much! It’s great to see ideas from others. :)

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Amanda May 22, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Chicken breasts!? Those are the most expensive and tasteless cut of the chicken! I suggest buying a pack of legs or a whole chicken instead, I can usually find a broiler for $6 or $7. Roast it the first night, eat the legs and thighs the second night, use “scraps” for quesadillas the third, make chicken salad or a sandwich the fourth, and use the giblets for stock or gravy in a fifth night meal.

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Laurie July 15, 2013 at 11:21 pm

Actually the chicken breasts healthwise are the best for you :o)

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Cory August 31, 2013 at 9:05 am

I’ve been trying to be more frugal & more healthy in terms of food cooking, buying and storage. We buy in bulk meats & divide in well marked heavy duty freezers bags. I also marinade the meats in the freezers bags to save time in the kitchen & prevent freezers burn. I’ve recently started making my own chicken/turkey stock (very easy) &much more healthy plus it’s a good way to use up wilted or veggies that are near the end of being fresh.. We’ve also cut down on meat. I still make a delicious spaghetti but, instead of using a lb. Of ground meat I use half & add minced green peppers, onions, mushrooms, carrots, celery etc.. Chop everything in a food processer or mini chopper it’s good to go! I use this method with meatloaf, sloppy Joe’s (homemade sauce) etc.. I find I throw away much less. I also freeze bananas for banana bread /smoothies. I make homemade soups in the fall to freeze for winter I make about 20 different kinds of healthy & delicious soups & stews.. I buy bone in chicken thighs cheaper & taste better the healthy benefits of white meat only is minimal.. I’ve recently started making hummus roasted red pepper & garlic/marinated artichoke delish & easy from dried beans! I also freeze entrees like homemade stuffed shells, homemade pizza dough, & we buy bread from the thrift store sometimes a trunkload for under $10 if we use a coupon!

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Kimberlee September 3, 2013 at 6:46 pm

Thanks Cory–all really great ideas!

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Charmaine Mankey November 1, 2013 at 7:29 pm

This is very late in the conversation, and may be repeating something someone else offered, but this is what I did when my rent was just $100 per month less than my monthly take home pay and I had a car payment plus auto insurance to pay. I bought one of those huge frozen mixed veggie bags (which at the time was about $1.49), a pound of rice, pasta, and potatoes, and if I ever got any extra cash, a chunk of cheese, and sometimes some beans of some sort. I made either the rice or pasta, cooked the veggies, piled the veggies on top of the rice or pasta, and ate to my tummy’s content. Adding cheese was a special treat. Other times, I baked a potato, added the veggies and topped it all with a little bit of cheese. That was delicious! I was lucky…I got to go home to Mom & Dad’s for dinner once a week and have a real meal. However with all that in my pantry, I had decent food and always had a great mostly quick and very cheap dinner. I even crave that once in awhile.

Thanks for all your tips, Kimberlee, you have a great and wondrous mind!

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Kimberlee November 1, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Good ideas Charmaine, and thanks for the compliment, although I’m not sure how accurate it is. :)

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taylor November 14, 2013 at 11:36 pm

My husband and I both eat on $25/wk, though i shop once a month…another mone saving tip. My husband is a competition powerlifter, consumes probably 4000 calories a day, including one pound of meat. So let me encourage you, it is entirely possible! We follow basically the same tips listed here, live in nc, and i shop at local butcher shops and fruit stands. You can do it!

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taylor November 14, 2013 at 11:41 pm

* i meant to say we each eat on $25/wk, for a total of $50/wk, or $200/mth. Also includes all household and personal care items

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Kimberlee November 15, 2013 at 1:52 am

Awesome Taylor–great job!

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Mandy December 13, 2013 at 9:46 pm

We grew up on macaroni with tomato juice and fried egg sandwiches. Thanks for your post, something inspiring to me!

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Brittany December 20, 2013 at 1:25 am

I shop for 4 people when it comes to groceries. I keep it all under 300 dollars a month, with meat and soda included in that. I mainly do things like mac and cheese, hot dogs, red beans and rice, tuna helper, pancakes for dinner, eggs, sandwiches, grilled cheese, pasta, etc. But at least once a week I add the “kings meal” to the menu which is meat and other things. It gives us something to look forward to with 3 out of the 4 of us working part time and full time jobs and 2 of them are men who are always hungry. I average 300 a month, 150 every two weeks, 10 dollars a day, 2.68 a person a day for food, including breakfast, lunch and snack items. Its possible if you shop right. I dont even use coupons. Just buy off brands and plan out your meals and stick to them!

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Kimberlee December 20, 2013 at 1:49 pm

I like the idea of having a special meal once a week Brittany. Good for you for sticking to such a tight grocery budget!

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Jennifer January 13, 2014 at 8:52 pm

I really wish I could find deals like this in Hawaii… You are really lucky to have such cheap food in stores. My weekly food bill is about 60-100+ a week. Even though I buy “cheap” food. I still feel like I come home with not very much.

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Kimberlee January 13, 2014 at 11:55 pm

You are so right Jennifer. I have a friend who moved there a couple of years ago and she could not believe the prices. At least you have a beautiful view!

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Amy March 26, 2014 at 7:41 pm

i live in alaska..so i feel your pain lol

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Sarah Jane February 22, 2014 at 11:01 am

We do most of our shopping at Aldi, and are SO thankful one has opened up five minutes from our house. Now when I go to another grocery store, I get sticker shock.

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Kimberlee February 22, 2014 at 11:49 am

The same thing happened to me when we moved in August. I buy everything I can at Aldi’s.

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Corinne March 24, 2014 at 5:28 pm

You can always find skin-on split chicken breast at one grocery or another for $0.99/lb! About every other week I can find this deal at Kroger. You can roast it in the oven, or poach it then shred to make a delicious chicken soup. Also remember that 1 whole chicken breast is not a serving size! If you pay attention your serving of meat you can save a lot of money!

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Kimberlee Stokes March 24, 2014 at 11:54 pm

Thank you for the tip Corinne!

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candas June 5, 2014 at 8:59 pm

I love aldi to0. With 5 I have a hard time only getting by with a 100 a week. I have been spending about 160. Any suggests on how to cut 60 dollars off my budget?

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Kimberlee Stokes June 6, 2014 at 7:42 am

Hi Candas – You probably won’t be able to do it all at once but by making small changes every week you can reduce your bill by that much in a couple of months. I would start with making a detailed menu plan each week and I would make cheaper meatless meals once or twice a week such as quesadillas with fresh fruit, beans and rice, breakfast for dinner (pancakes for example). Cut out all drinks except water and watch your snack food purchases. The produce tends to be cheaper and aldi and makes a healthy snack that will actually fill up your kids. Hope that helps!

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Jessica August 4, 2014 at 12:06 am

Our budget for a family of 5 is $79/week. Sometimes it’s hard, especially since that also covers any household items (ie. toilet paper, laundry detergent, etc). I make my own laundry detergent, quit buying liquid bath soap & use the cheaper bar soap. For groceries, I stock up on 10 lb bags of leg quarters when they go on sale for .49 cents/lb. I buy extra beef (ground or roasts) when they go on sale. That way, I’m not buying meat every week & I plan my menu by what’s in the freezer. I also stock up on canned items we use when they are on sale. We have breakfast one night a week, which is easier & cheaper than a full meal. We can veggies from my father in law’s garden to use throughout the year. My husband deer hunts & fishes & we process the meat ourselves & use that throughout the year. I have stopped buying packaged snacks every week. I make our desserts/sweets from scratch (always keep flour & sugar on hand). I quit deep frying foods, so I buy less oil. I use vinegar & baking soda to clean with, so I don’t buy lots of cleaning products. I’ve quit buying paper plates. We get soda & ice cream about once a month. We drink tea, milk & water for the most part. My youngest child does get WIC & this goes a long way, since we get 3 gallons & 1 qt of milk per month, 2 grains, 1 pkg cheese, 1 doz eggs, 36 oz cereal (I stock up on oatmeal), and fruit juice, plus $8 worth of fruits/veggies. One tip that came from Budget101 is to take like $30 from your grocery budget each month & save it. Then at the end of the year or the beginning of the next year, use that money to stock up on chicken or beef to freeze for the year.

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Jessica August 4, 2014 at 12:13 am

Kimberlee Stokes – I just read your response & saw that several of our suggestions are the same…lol. Unfortunately, we only have Walmart, Market Basket, Walgreens, CVS, Family Dollar & Dollar General in our small town, so not a lot of savings there. I get all my meat from Market Basket (better quality & good sales). They also have better produce. Since it’s just groceries, I don’t get sucked in by all the other options like at Walmart. Sometimes I can catch bread at Dollar Tree. I love it when I find Nature’s Own wheat bread for $1 there. If I do decide to buy snacks, I do it there also. 1 bag of pretzel sticks, 1 box of Whales crackers, 1 bag of mini marshmallows & we have enough snacks for lunches for the week & all for $3.

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Kimberlee Stokes August 4, 2014 at 3:01 pm

It’s tough when your store options are limited but it sounds like you are doing a great job Jessica!

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Kimberlee Stokes August 4, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Great tips – thanks Jessica!

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Holly July 19, 2014 at 10:51 pm

In college I lived on stir-fried cabbage and shredded carrots prepared with ginger, garlic and soy sauce. Eat it with rice. It is so flavorful and satisfying, you don’t even need meat. You can add a dash of sugar if you like a more teriyaki flavor.

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Kimberlee Stokes July 20, 2014 at 6:09 am

Thanks for the tip Holly!

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