When the conversation turns to healthier eating, it seems like someone always brings up the idea that it’s impossible to eat healthy on a budget. While it’s true that a package of ramen noodles is cheaper than a box of whole wheat pasta, that’s only part of the story. If you don’t invest in the food you put in your body, you will pay ten-fold in medical expenses throughout your life.
Just about everyone is looking to save money these days, but many frugal foods can also improve your health. Whether you are saving money by comparing insurance rates or making your own household cleaning products, add eating healthy to the list of ways to save a buck. Plus, health insurance rates go down if more people are healthy and requiring less money to maintain their health.
This post is long over due. We’re talking ridiculously long. The week 1 post was almost ancient history, but thanks to my readers who have pushed me to get the rest of this series out, I kept going. Cheap Food Here is showing our readers that it is possible to spend just $100 per person per month on food. Our week 1 post was created when we were living in Costa Rica so certain foods were cheaper (most produce and fruit) but certain other foods were more expensive (specialty items, imported foods, cheese, meat, seafood, etc) so it has surprisingly balanced out now that we’ve completed week 2 since moving to St. Petersburg, Florida. Continue reading
In case you didn’t catch my first post about 5 ways to save money on food, make sure you go back and check it out too. There are plenty of ways to save money on food, and below I have focused on five very important things to keep you on the straight and narrow when you’re in the grocery store. This doesn’t mean boring food, but it could potentially encroach on some of your food crutches that are driving up your monthly food budget and aren’t a requirement for your health. Take a look and feel free to comment any other ideas you have or feedback with your experience with any of the 5 more ways to save money. Continue reading
What’s the best way to save money on the food budget? With food being one of the largest parts of the food budget, we often struggle with how to make cuts without feeling like you’re not feeding yourself or your family properly. This is definitely not the case and I have proved it in my $100 Cheap Food Challenge I wrote about. This case study does some quick interviews with people to discover that, not only do people have no clue how much they spend each month on food, they think it’s impossible to survive on just $100 per person per month. Now, granted, it is more difficult to live on $100 per month when it’s just one person, but it gets easier as you add more to the household. If you have five members of the family that you’re feeding, it’s easier to limit your food spending to $500 than for the single person to keep it under $100. Continue reading
Making empanada dough correctly is the hardest part about the whole process of putting together the perfect empanada. I spent some long hours trying to get the dough just right; looking at every recipe on the internet I could find, and then some. I tried recipes with yeast, baking powder, corn flour, butter, shortening, spices, eggs, etc. None of them turned out the way I wanted. To save you time, I have put together a list of empanada mistakes so you can read them without actually experiencing the same problems I had.
Well, the day has finally arrived and Cheap Food Here has put themselves out there for the world to critique in Week 1 of Project Food Blog put on by Foodbuzz.com. This first entry is being judged on how true it is to the very heart of the site, and in our case we’re obsessed with saving money and making delicious food at the same time.
When you vote, click the banner below and when the Project Food Blog header comes up on top, click on the Heart that says “Vote for this entry”. You can log in with your Facebook account in order to cast your vote.
Our post highlights a challenge to ourselves and everyone out there to live off of just $100 per person per month for food. Some people think it’s downright impossible to do and others know it’s possible but think they’ll be eating only rice and beans for the month. We’re out to prove everyone wrong and at the same time enlighten everyone, no matter what country you live in, that with the right planning, menu and shopping, you can significantly cut your food costs, all the way down to $100 per month.
We were inspired by the many people we saw and spoke to daily that spend a ridiculous amount of money on food because they go out to eat too much or just buy things frivolously in the grocery store. Creating a food budget is hugely important when you’re trying to pay down your debt and truly begin building wealth. It’s a major part of your monthly expenses and you don’t have to give up delicious food in order to save money.
Cheap Food Here is providing the menu, tips and support you need in order to cut your spending. We’re passionate about food and more passionate about saving money. So, if you have the time today, please vote for us so we can move on to Week 2 of Project Food Blog and check back here every two weeks for the next entry. Thanks to all of our readers and those enthusiastic about the same things we are.
Now, a little background: the Cheap Food Here family follows the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover very closely and have worked hard to get to Baby Step 4. Our food budget for two people is currently $500, which includes $300 for groceries and $200 for eating out. This is our comfortable point now that we are no longer paying off debt, however, when we were doing the debt snowball and attacking our consumer debt and student loans with ‘gazelle intensity’, we we were spending around $250 per month in total food cost (groceries and eating out).
Down here in Costa Rica we have found that some families spend over $1,200 per month on food for a family of 3 adults and 2 children. This number may not seem too shocking, but know that they, on average, earn less than $2,000 per month in total household income. The percentage of their income spent on food is over 60% when it should be around 5-15% or roughly $300. However, most argue that this is impossible.
The key to reducing food costs each month is research and planning. Most people don’t think about needing to do research before hitting the farmer’s market or grocery store, but it’s imperative to keep from overspending. The food budget can be a large part of your spending each month, but it doesn’t have to be, especially if you are in the early stages of paying off debt.
So, the quest for a food budget under $100 begins. First we’re going to look at cheap and healthy recipes that are tried and true for our family and make a menu for each week. With this menu, we’ll focus mostly on fresh, local food that’s in season that we can buy at the farmer’s market. First, let’s take a look at what we’ll have to give up or change about our current eating habits, some of which were mentioned in the video.
Cost Cutting Necessities
No Eating Out
Meat Consumption reduced
Limiting processed food consumption
Sticking to a grocery list
Drink water with or without lemon instead of bottled juices, sodas or other sugary/sugar-free drinks.
Week 1 Menu
Below is the cheap food menu I’ve put together to get you started and prove you can eat healthy and fully on $50 per week for two people. Some of the recipes in the list below are from Cheapfoodhere.com and some are from our favorite foodies. Please refrain from using canned goods unless you have them already, but know that you are getting less than half of the nutritional value from canned goods that you would from fresh or frozen produce.
With a lot of the recipes, it’s good to reduce the amount of an ingredient that is expensive (example: cheese or meat) or substitute it for something less expensive and perhaps more healthy.
Growing your own produce and herbs is a great way to save money and it can be done in planters too if you don’t have a back yard. If you’re not growing, try to support your local farmers first, but sometimes their prices are just too high. Some stuff you have to go to the grocery store for, but there is a great resource to check pricing before ever venturing out; www.mygrocerydeals.com keeps you in-the-know when it comes to checking cheap grocery prices in the United States.
Make sure when you go shopping, you stick to the list, and only to the list. It is your map, your guide, your blinders. However, if you see an item that could make a perfect substitute (example large tomatoes instead of Romas) but is cheaper, buy those instead. We’re looking for deals here, so keep your eyes peeled.
Some of the items on the list you’ll see don’t have prices, which indicates it’s something I already had. You can use this sheet to fill in prices on your own to help you better prepare for the upcoming week of meals. The sheet is organized by meal, however there is a lot of cross over, so if it was on the breakfast list, you won’t find it again under lunch, dinner or snacks. You can also organize the list by aisle if that’s easier. The basis of how I chose the meals for the week was looking first at what I had and could then in turn spend less on groceries. It’s best to use all of the items you already have to make sure they don’t go bad and end up getting thrown out anyway. You’ll notice that the Week 1 Shopping List goes well over the designated $50 per week budget for two people, however, a lot of items will be left over for future weeks. Stay tuned for follow up posts for the remaining 3 weeks of the month. Good luck and I’d love feedback from those who are accepting the challenge.
In an effort to mingle with my fellow foodies and generate a collective set of blog posts, I am requesting all cheap food hints, tricks, recipes, gadgets, etc that help reduce your cooking budget from all corners of the world. Please send info to me at “ashley(at)cheapfoodhere(dot)com”. With the info, I will create a series of blog posts that link back to the source blog (your info doesn’t have to be a formal blog post, but just make sure to include your food blog URL). The series of posts will be named Cheap Food Blogosphere and will include everyone’s content and credits. I’m excited to see the variety of information and insight I’ll receive from my fellow foodies.
As a backstory, I have been actively involved with the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover to plan my budget and pay off all my debt. I finally conquered Baby Step 2 this month and am consumer debt free! No more student loans, no more credit cards, no more car payments; just the mortgages are left. It was painful, but one of the most helpful parts was creating a food budget and planning out my meals.
I got anal with it and started shopping lists, spread sheets, figured out costs per portion, where to find the cheapest groceries, etc. I’m documenting everything for my first book to be published. It’s a huge help just to be conscious of the money being spent each month, especially on food. As I explained in my recent post about shopping at farmer’s markets, pricing items can be tricky and vary significantly from place to place. It pays to be diligent.
So, what I’m asking for are submissions of all the unique ways to cut corners on price but not on flavor. We’re not talking just spaghetti dinners and boring potato casseroles here. I am truly passionate about designing meals on a creative budget, and I’m sure there are others out there. Thanks for everyone’s feedback, small or large.
Since moving to San Jose, Costa Rica in January, I’ve found a limited amount of all-natural or organic items (mostly produce) in the grocery stores with an adequate label identifying it as such. There is a great company called BioLand that has great snacks, cereals, and other all-natural and organic products, but they are still limited. There isn’t a natural food store with solely organic products, which is disappointing. However, I have since discovered a (tentative) miracle company called NaturaStyle, who will deliver organic and all-natural products to your door. Awesome. The list of items is endless and I’m sure if you request something obscure that they don’t have, they’ll find it. I can’t wait to get going on this and oh how it will be a welcomed change from scouring the grocery stores.
When I was living in Charlotte, I had organic produce delivered to the house every other week. The service was called Absolute Organics (the Web site leaves a lot to be desired, but the products are great) and they have several different packages you can sign up for, but the gist of it is that you get a box of produce either every week or every two weeks left on your doorstep. Wow, how convenient. I definitely ate better while receiving boxes every other week.
I will be placing my order with NaturaStyle this week and will let you know once it gets here how it turns out. I do need to make sure it fits within my monthly grocery budget. If you would like to see a list of organic food delivery services near you, see my page about it. If there is a company not on the list just shoot me a comment and I’ll get it posted.