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Cheap & Healthy Food under $100 per month

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Project Food Blog Week 1 – The $100 Challenge

VIDEO: Can you live on $100 per month for food?


What’s A Healthy Food Budget?

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

  1. No Eating Out
  2. Meat Consumption reduced
  3. Limiting processed food consumption
  4. Sticking to a grocery list
  5. Homemade snacks
  6. 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.

Breakfast

  1. Red Bell Pepper Frittata & fruit
  2. Pressed Egg sandwich & fruit shake
  3. Almond French Toast with maple syrup and a side of fruit
  4. Soy Milk Waffle (or regular milk is fine too) w/fresh fruit topping
  5. Oatmeal w/frozen blueberries and flax, fruit shake and side fresh fruit
  6. Jalapeño and Onion Frites w/fried eggs, bacon and a side of fruit

Lunch

  1. Grilled Veggie Wraps
  2. Tuna pasta salad
  3. Mini pizzas with apples, onion, garlic  and bell peppers
  4. Leftover Cobb Salad
  5. Leftover Chicken Stir Fry
  6. Leftover Eggplant Parmesan

Dinner

  1. Homemade Pizza
  2. Eggplant Parmesan w/spaghetti
  3. Chix Stir Fry (cut recipe in half)
  4. Cobb Salad (onion sub for shallot; blue cheese omitted)
  5. Fish Tacos w/cilantro slaw
  6. Seared Sesame Tuna w/tempura vegetables

Snacks

  1. Raw veggies with Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
  2. Fruit (banana, apple, or tangerine)
  3. Nuts, w/raisins
  4. Homemade Crackers w/Sage and Cayenne
  5. Yogurt with berries and a side of fresh fruit

 

Week 1 Grocery List: Download Here

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.

38 Comments »

  1. Anybody that follows the Dave Ramsey lifestyle gets a vote from me! Thanks for sharing your food budget experiences.

  2. Thanks for your support I will find and vote for your post too

  3. LOVE IT! I am going to try this weekly menu. Saving money AND eating well? Sounds like a match made in heaven.

  4. great approach! i would like to try some of your tips :)

  5. Love it! We were spending about $250 on groceries and no one believed me it could be done. Planning and staying with the list is key! Congrats on your baby step journey; we’re still on #2. Good luck with the challenge!

  6. Congrats to you too. Dave Ramsey is taking the world by storm. Thanks for the support.

  7. this is one of the most high quality posts i’ve seen. thank you for sharing! this post couldn’t be more timely, especially in the current economic environment and health issues we face. you got my vote! can’t wait to see else you will be cooking.
    Lick My Spoon

  8. thanks for your great review! It’s been fun, i hope I made it to the next round. I’ll look for your post as well.

  9. WHERE IS WEEK TWO AND SO FORTH ? THE GROCERY LIST DOESNT WORK FOR MAC’S :/ HELP!!!
    I really wanna do this!

  10. Thanks for your comment. Week two should be out soon. I don’t know what’s going on with the list, I’ll check it out now.

  11. Where is week 2…? I really would like to do this! Did you figure out it was impossible after all?

  12. Jessica, thanks so much for pushing me. I have the post half way finished and am adding the final recipes. I need to get on it and finish the 4 weeks. I’m sorry I’ve slacked on getting this up. No, it’s not impossible, quite the contrary.

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  14. There is no way you can buy allll that food for 84 dollars. if so what grocery store are you shopping at? and that rite there is almost $100 and only the first week. i hope this food last threw week 2, 3 and 4 :) so i guess your result is no! you cant live off of $100/mth although we all wish we could. foods too expensive.

  15. Hi Kristie,

    Thanks for your comment. Keep in mind that we’re buying food for 2 people in the example (so we spend $200 total in the month) and we’re re-using leftover ingredients in week 2 and beyond in some cases. There are a lot of places you can find cheaper food. BigLots is a great place to find items 50-75% less than at the regular grocery stores. Aldi is another great one for dairy and produce. Discount bakeries or local fruit/veggie stands, etc. Some items we already had in the pantry or grow in our garden.

    I’m sure we spent what I’ve outlined on the spreadsheet as I have the receipts. Our video shows that most people don’t believe it can be done, but there are ways, without a doubt.

    Thanks again for your feedback.

  16. Awesome! I tried to download week 1 grocery list but I cannot open the zip file. Is there another place it can be downloaded? Thank you very much. Can’t wait to start!

  17. Hi Anthony, I just checked the link for the file and it’s working fine. If you don’t have a program on your computer to open a .zip file, you can download any number of programs that will open it for you. Inside the zip is the excel file. If you continue to have trouble, feel free to email me at ashley@cheapfoodhere[dot]com

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  20. In this list…..do you think I have all those spices…thats going to cost more than $84….I’m super poor and get $200 a month to buy food thats $3 a day to live on for 2 people.I’d like to eat healthy but its hard when you have to shot at save alot and the dollar tree.

  21. Just did our weekly groceries for hub & I for $36. Will last 1.5-2 weeks.

    WalMart, Texas
    5 lb. Potatoes, cantaloupe, 1 white onion, 2 peaches, peanut butter/jelly mix (splurge), Alfredo sauce, mustard, baby carrots, 2 green peppers, 2 pears, 2 nectarines, sliced mushrooms, 2 Apples, 2 sweetcorn, provolone cheese, tortillas, California vegetable mix, hot cocoa, hot dogs, 4 $0.50 sandwich meat pckgs., dry Asian seasoning, dry kidney beans, wheat bread, 1 banana, 1 avocado, dozen eggs

    *produce fresh unless stated otherwise

    Staples to combine with at home: stir fry frozen veggies, rice, pasta, ramen

  22. Amazing, congratulations. Thanks for the encouraging comment.

  23. confused. I found week 1 and that was cool. Week 2, though comes in at just under $50 which is awesome for a week’s worth of meals–but that plus week 1 totals more than 100–by $30 over. So then there’s still the rest of the month. I think I missed something. I’m brand new here to your blog, so I probably just read the wrong thing…

  24. Thank You so Much this info!! Me and My wife are on the 3rd Month week 12 and Step 2 of Dave Ramsey’s FPU Course, and we are having a really hard time lowering our budget. This is a lot of very helpful information!! We really appreciated it!! Big Time!! Thank You!!

  25. You’re very welcome. Thanks for making us blush :-) Stay strong with the Dave Ramsey plan, it gets easier. We are still using cash envelopes and are now at Step 6 after just three years of marriage. You can do it!

  26. Hi there, i’m sorry if it wasn’t clear but this article is about feeding 2 people for $100 per person, per month. So $200 total for the whole month. The major investment in food is Week 1, then it’s slightly less for Week 2, 3 and 4. Good luck!

  27. I think this might be possible in some places, but here in Alaska, it would be very difficult, indeed, if not impossible. Everything costs more here, especially fresh produce. We don’t have Sav-A-Lot, we don’t have Aldi. I miss them both terribly. I will still look at the recipes with great interest, but I have absolutely no expectation that I can cook this way for $100/month per person.

  28. Spending $100 or less on groceries in a month is what I do, but it not very convenient for most.

    Cost-effective tip to lower your monthly groceries shopping from my experiences
    me: $250 for 3 months ($83/m). 5yrs-Vegan All organic and 5’4″ Male 22 BMI

    1a. Eat YOUR cooking as much as possible. This will definitely save you the most money. Plus you can be as picky as you want
    1b. Stockpile. Always have food home and you’ll spend less outside. Buy foods that don’t expire easily and that are in seal containers. Foods that do expire quickly need to be cut and put into the freezer. Unfreezable food that expire quickly need to be preserved (acid, oil, salts) and refrigerated. If done correctly, you should last for several months before shopping again.

    2. Research. Go to different stores (Costco, Wholefoods, Fairway, so on), different brands, look for coupons, anything. Get a lot of basic ingredients (grains, vegetables, beans, flax seeds, so on) that aren’t too expensive and foods that are healthy and similar are adjusted in terms of price per calories.

    3. This is strange but if you do cardio workouts, you lose weight, get more energy, and end up eating less overall.

  29. Well said Richard. Thanks for the comment.

  30. Where can I find out the rest of the weeks? I am really excited to start this but I want to make sure I have all the recepies and groceries lists before I start! Great article!!!

  31. Hey there,

    I have unfortunately been unable to create the 3rd and 4th weeks but will be able to jump back on the project in the next few weeks. I’m so glad you’re interested! Stay tuned for week 3 and 4.

  32. I’m off to the grocery store to buy the list provided. With all the spices and extras it’s coming to around $300 from Safeway here in Oregon. That’s again “with” all of the extras.

    I did notice that most of the items listed are more expensive than whats quoted. With that said, I’m going to give this menu a whirl. :) I spend “way” too much money on eating out. My biggest expense is “sushi”! Now sure how I’m going to cut some of this down. Major addiction.

    I’ll have to make it to Costa Rica soon to do some photography!

    Greg

  33. I am a big coupon junkie, and I had been spending 250.00 month even when I had 4 children and us 2 parents. Now it is just 3 of us and I think we are down to 150.00. My 16yr old still gets to go to McDonalds a couple times per month, but we only get 2 McChicken 1.00 sandwiches and split a med or lg fry and drink water, so under 4.00. It does take a lot of planning, but can be done. No, I did not buy a lot of junk food. Kid’s never got pop ect…(kool-aid) or water, milk. I did go to Aldi’s for some of the staples that you do not find coupons for. Meat was not served at every meal.

  34. Thanks for your comment. It’s a perfect example of staying under $100 per person per month. Thanks for your support! Enjoy the recipes.

  35. I am not able to buy produce at the prices listed. for expample 6 apples for $1.75 or frozen fruit at the price listed. way more expensive. I shop at Aldi, Krogers, and Walmart. I shop the mark down bins all the time. I live in Indiana.

  36. 1. …my food costs are ~$150/mo [1 person]…
    2. …i purchase quite a few things at Aldi’s, but, also, purchase a few things @Whole-Foods and @Ingles [Asheville, NC]…i drink a glass or 2 of wine/mo…
    3. …i do cut some corners that i’d rather not cut (e.g., i eat Aldi’s yoghurt)…
    4. …my diet is primarily veg [Aldi's] & fruit [Aldi's]…i eat canned tuna fish, sardines, & smoked oysters [all from Aldi's]…
    5. …for me, shopping is a Science, and staying under-budget is empowering…
    6. …when my food costs are under $150/mo, i may splurge on 1 or 2 items [e.g., 1 glass of wine with dinner at a no-frills vegetarian restaurant or a book from amazon.com or a trip to GoodWill for clothes…but never more than $20-$25…
    7. …it gets easier with practice…i live on ~$1,000/mo [i do not own a car]…

  37. Hi. Do you think you could list the meals that can be refrigerated? I would be cooking for one person and would be refrigerating a lot of leftovers. I’m not sure which of these can be refrigerated, specifically week 1. Thank you.

  38. Hi Kaylah, thanks for your question. For week 1 recipes, your best bet for making ahead and refrigerating are:

    Breakfast: Frittata and oatmeal
    Lunch: Any of the lunches, but the tuna pasta is especially good the next day :-)
    Dinner: Pizza, Eggplant Parm, Chicken Stir Fry and Cobb Salad. The other’s won’t do well preparing ahead of time or eating as leftovers.

    Good luck!

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