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Eating for under $25 a week?

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Posts: 6
7/22/09 4:57 P

For the past year, I've budgeted $100 a month for groceries/household items and usually come in under that number. I have several grocery stores to choose from, including Aldis, and I coupon.

I try to include a variety of foods and eat from all the major food groups, including a minimum of 5 fruits/vegetables a day, but organic items are out of my budget. I keep a list of grocery prices and stock up when I find deals. I read the sale fliers online and plan my meals around what is inexpensive.

With coupons, I can usually get frozen vegetables free or close to it. I buy fruit in season and on sale. Aldi's has better prices on fresh produce than anywhere else I've found, but the selection is limited. Canned spaghetti sauce and salsa can often be found for free with coupons.

For protein, eggs are cheap. Tuna is free with coupons. A whole chicken cooked in the Crock pot will make many meals. Lean ham is inexpensive. Cheaper ground beef can be boiled to remove the fat. Dried beans and lentils can be used in a variety of ways, and they're less expensive than canned. I love the Hillbilly Housewife's Taco Style Lentils and Rice.

I bake my own bread using the $7 bread maker I bought at Goodwill. Pasta is free with coupons. I buy large bags of rice. Tortillas and potatoes are cheap. Bulk grains from the store usually are cheaper than buying pre-packaged ones.

I was purchasing large cartons of yogurt, but I can usually get the individual cartons cheaper per serving with coupons and a sale. Milk has come way down in price. Cheese has been on sale a lot lately, and I stock up and freeze it when it is under $1 per package; the grated cheese has been cheaper than block cheese for some reason.

You have to know your prices and not be loyal to one brand or store, and it will take some planning, but you can easily eat a healthy menu on $25 per week.

SparkPoints: (8,820)
Fitness Minutes: (5,090)
Posts: 454
7/22/09 1:25 P

It is not easy, esp. doing it in a healthy way, but it is doable.

The problem is that with a limited budget you cannot have much variety (esp. the first week). Here is how you can do it: Scan the newspaper inserts for sales at groceries. You need to budget for 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches and 7 dinners and snacks.

You can pick up

A dozen eggs $1
A loaf of whole wheat bread $2
A package of low fat cheese slices $2
(this makes 7 breakfasts of fried egg on a single piece of toast with cheese for $5 - and there are left overs)

A large bag of cut lettuce ($2)
2 lbs of chicken breast ($4 @ 2 per)
5 lbs of potatoes ($2)
1 lbs of onions ($1)
1 lbs of tomatoes ($2)
2.5 lbs bag of apples ($3)
1 box of whole wheat pasta ($2)
1 jar of tomato sauce ($1)
1 small bottle of canola oil ($1)
2.5 lbs of bananas ($3)

That would give you 7 lunches and dinners and fruit snacks for $20.

Total $25. And with left overs that you can use next week to vary that week's food.

Doable but hard

Good luck!

Posts: 2
7/22/09 9:09 A

Vegetarian food is always pretty cheap! With a little veg and some rice and spices you can make a meal for 1-2dollars easily. Here are a few really cheap recipes I absolutely love!

Super Burgers-give you lots of protein and are mega cheap and filling and low in fat
Tin of Kidney Beans (or dried and Bioled)
1cup of brown rice cooked until soft, but firm
1Onion chopped
1tube of tomato puree
2-3 cups of gram flour (chick-pea flour)
4tablespoons of spices or curry powder (I mix 1 part each of coriander, cumin, chili powder, ginger, turmeric and garam masala)
Salt +Pepper

Fry in a little sunflower oil. Add rice or some chop a potato, sprinkle a little chilli and paprika, and half a tspn of sunflower oil and bake in the oven for great potato wedges.

Mash the kidney beans and mix everything together. Everything on the list costs where I live (Ireland) for 30cents or under, and the burgers are really tasty and filling. You can substitute kidney beans for soya mince if you like. thay're gluten free, diabetic friendly and vegan.

Vegan veg bake

mix 250 grams of Gram Flour with 750 Grams of Water.
Sit for 2 hours in a bowl.

Chop up whatever vegetables and beans you have, and add a few tablespoons of spices (like above).

Mix together, and put in a non-stick baking tray, in the oven for 30 minutes. It comes out like a quiche and will last for a few days, and is really tasty and nutritious, and you can just put in whatever veg you have of feel like.

Hope these help!

Posts: 353
7/21/09 6:45 A

I had a friend who was pretty down on his luck who lived in the city.He swore by things ran by church groups that provided meals, he especially liked the salvos and the Krishna meals as these were vegetarian and well balanced. After he told me this, I bought a Krishna cook book which was actally pretty good. If you dont mind having the religion shoved down your neck (literally), there are some good things in the book. One of them was the reminder that you shouldn't seek self satisfaction through the things that you put in your mouth, but to use food as a way of sustaining the body only. As this is how they feed themselves you will find heaps of nourishment in the recipes they provide and they are extremely cheap to make, although they are vegetarian.

Posts: 4,255
7/20/09 9:28 P

That movie was an eye opener for sure, and so frightening!!

I say, go for the lentils!

SparkPoints: (47,333)
Fitness Minutes: (14,972)
Posts: 2,073
7/20/09 7:29 P

you could get three items from the Micky D's dollar menu but I don't recommend it. I do recommend the movie "Supersize Me"

Posts: 370
7/15/09 2:38 P

You can get 3 items off the dollar menu at Mickey D's every day. :)

Posts: 38
6/12/09 11:43 A

I got laid off in December and know about strict budgeting very personally. I just found out about a group called Angel Food Ministries. You can get basic boxes of food for around $30 and Special Boxes for around $25. That's $55 for a whole month. Here's the website if your interested.

Posts: 78
6/12/09 9:16 A

A couple of years ago, my boyfriend and I ate for less than $25.00 per week (sometimes as low as $15.00 per week); however, the food that we were eating was far from healthy: macaroni and cheese, Ramen noodles, hot dogs, etc.

Eating HEALTHY for less than $25.00 per week is truly a challenge. You could have oatmeal for breakfast, bananas, popcorn and yogurt for snacks (buy a large tub of yogurt as opposed to the small single-serving containers), vegetarian chili for lunch (as previously mentioned, use dried beans, lentils, etc. to save additional money) and, for dinner, you could make meals consisting of brown rice, WW pasta (which is more expensive but worth the extra $, in my opinion) and canned/frozen vegetables. Buy chicken or ground turkey in bulk, and it will last for months. Also, salad is always a low-calorie, inexpensive option. Around here, a head of iceberg costs around $0.99.

Good luck!

Edited by: MINT_BUBBLES at: 6/12/2009 (09:17)

Posts: 276
6/10/09 11:19 A

Since I'm on a strict budget I've gotten into the habit of looking at the weekly circulars for the handful of grocery stores in my area. I've committed to only buying what's on sale every week. If there's a staple, like pasta, I stock up. It's almost like a game to try and see how little I can spend now, and I usually take home something I've never tried before (jicama this week). Also, I try not to buy anything prepackaged, but stick to fresh fruit and produce, which can actually be very inexpensive if you're willing to take the time to prep it once you get home. I also always stock up on beans, canned or dry...they're so cheap and they can fill out any meal and they freeze great.

Posts: 121
6/9/09 6:42 P

Go Spanish!

The Latin cultures provide many budget friendly meal ideas!

Rice and Beans: Buy Rice in large quantities and seal it well, do the same with DRIED beans. You can get all sorts of different beans, and do all sorts of crazy things with them! Plus rice mixed with beans is an excellent source of enzymes that cannot be found in any other foods! It pays to soak the beans yourself, rather than buying canned

For one week, live on mostly rice and beans for your lunch and dinner, etc. Supplement it with things like greenbeans, etc.

The second week buy a large package of chicken, or other meat and freeze all but enough for the week. Cook it up and throw it into your rice and bean mixes. You could also precook the rest of the chicken and freeze pre-portioned meals for yourself.

Each week experiment with a different meat, or veggie, etc.

Also remember corn is another cheap food, as well as potatoes, many leafy veggies, etc. Check farmers markets for deals too!

SparkPoints: (47,333)
Fitness Minutes: (14,972)
Posts: 2,073
6/8/09 8:42 P

Here is an interesting blog on the topic of eating healthfully and inexpensively .

Posts: 134
6/8/09 4:42 P

As a poor college student, I often try to eat for $20 a week, but there's a few weeks when I fail (like when I run out of a bunch of staples at once). I try to budget around a few major items that have to be bought every week--meat+milk=about $10, bread=$1.50 (I really only buy that every other week), and the rest of the budget I use for fruits and vegetables. Bananas are cheap, and canned tomatoes can be used for a lot of recipes. Onions keep well in the fridge in airtight containers, so you can use 1/2 at a time for recipes a week apart. I also tend to eat a lot of PB&J and cheese sandwiches. I hope your situation gets better soon!

Posts: 703
5/26/09 11:08 A

Call your local community center or police dept. There should be a food pantry nearby to help you.
Any discount grocery stores near you?
Or bread thrift stores to buy day old bread?
Do you qualify for food stamps ?

Eggs are great for omelets and sandwiches.
Pasta is cheap too , add some low cost veggies for a great meal.

Good luck , hope you find a job soon.
Check, and
You can search for jobs by your zip code !!

Here is a recipe you can make and eat for probably 3 days !!

1 pound pasta ( on sale $1.00 )
1 jar pasta sauce (on sale $1.09 )
1 pound ground beef or turkey ( on sale $3.00 )
1 small onion ( 5 cents )

Cook pasta.
Saute beef and onion in a fry pan.
Drain cooked pasta. Place pasta back into pot.
Stir in beef mixture and pasta sauce.
This makes a lot , pretty much 2 + pounds of food !!

Edited by: COOKIE1960 at: 5/26/2009 (11:15)

Posts: 4
5/21/09 11:23 P

When I was short of cash, I used to stop by the local nonprofit day care center and thrift store. They always had a table or shelf of free food items such as bread, cakes, cookies, etc. The items were donated by local stores. No one ever asked questions and I was able to get in and out without speaking with anyone.

Someone suggested farmers markets, I'd suggest going at the end of the day when they are closing and packing up to leave. You can offer less money and get some great bargains since sellers don't want to take items back home with them.

My local stores always have a day old section of marked down breads, cakes, cookies, donuts. Some stores have better mark downs than others so shop several to see which store offers the best deals and what days are the best for finding mark downs.

I would call up all the local churches, synagogues, shelters, soup kitchens, etc, and ask what programs they have for feeding families in need.

Find friends or parks with fruit trees and make lemonaide, orange juice/aide.

Check for co-op gardens and start growing produce. I bet the people you meet at the co-op would love to share any extra produce.

Posts: 4
5/21/09 11:13 P

You can make your own bread for pennies a loaf and there is no kneading or special equipment needed. Plus, only a few incredients:
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting. You may use white, whole wheat or a combination of the two.
1 1/2 tsp salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran for dusting (I omit this item)

The recipe can be found at

Posts: 404
5/21/09 8:04 P

I feed a family of four for 35 to 40 dollars a week.

Posts: 147
5/21/09 2:38 P

Here is a link to an article about a woman who spent $1 a day on food.

I saw her on a Rachael Ray show last month. She didn't even start with anything before she did it. That $1 a day had to stock her pantry, etc. It was very inspiring. They also have a thing on Monday's about saving money on food. Another woman had pointed out that if you do buy fresh produce, get what is in season. Best of luck!

Posts: 254
5/17/09 11:54 P

check here :

to see if there is an Angel Food site in your area.

Posts: 138
5/16/09 5:53 P


I like your idea on cost projections for recipes!

I am in a similar predicament. My food budget right now is $50 a week to feed a family of 4.

Here are some of the things that worked for me...

1) I have a membership to Costco. Ask some of your friends if they might have a membership to a likewise club and see if they will let you tag along on their next trip. If not,the clubs offer a "trial membership". Buying in bulk WILL help! I can get one head of lettuce for $3 at a store or take that same $ and buy 3 heads.

2) Take advantage of the store clearance sales. It took some trial and error, but my local grocery store usually has the best prices on meat on Thursdays. I got a $10 steak for $6.

3) Grow your own veggies and herbs.

4) Eat more vegetarian meals

What really helped me survive this current predicament is that I had a well stocked pantry. My hubby thought it was stupid to have dry rice,beans,oats,grits,cornmeal,flour,ect. but now he is happy.

This past week I think my lowest cost meal was crab cakes, roasted asparagus, and tomato basil breadsticks. The "meat" was $2. The asparagus was $1.50. The bread dough for the breadsticks was homemade...sorry, my math isn't good enough to tell you how much that cost. It easily made enough to feed us all with leftovers the next day.

There is a good group where you can get some good advice called "Penny Pinchers"

Also,bartering is a great way to go! In my area there are farms that you can go to and pay a small price to pick your own food unless you know the farmer emoticon

And if you are really hard up...go to the library and find a book on edible wild plants in your area. Then go and have fun but PLEASE BE CAREFUL!! I would stay away from the mushrooms altogether. A good rule of thumb is when in doubt,DON'T!

Edited by: DDT1970 at: 5/16/2009 (18:01)

Posts: 2,388
5/16/09 2:26 P

I don't know if this would be an option for you, the job I had which had the lowest cost of living was back when I worked at summer camp. I was getting a pay check every week, living at the camp, using their showers and eating there for free and too busy to even think about spending the money I was making. This isn't the worlds best paying job, but you would do a lot better then $25 per week and even better, you would spend nothing expect your minimum payments on your credit cards.

Posts: 652
5/16/09 6:27 A

about 10 years ago I survived on $20 / week for a little, while unemployed.
One cheap filling lunch: Cooked Broccoli with melted cheese.

I usually make this with frozen broccoli, but I can't tell you how it works out with food prices in your area, you might want to cook a big batch and freeze it yourself?

Spread a plate evenly with frozen, cooked broccoli, heat in microwave oven.
Make very thin slices of cheese (not pre-sliced, more expensive and the slices are too thick for our own calorie good!) 1 oz should be more than enough to cover the broccoli.
The broccoli should be almost ready in about 2 to 3 minutes, you might want to drain the excess melted water off of the plate. (I pour it into a jar and add to rice as extra boost).
Cover the broccoli evenly with the thin slices of cheese. Microwave until cheese is melted to your liking.
You can sprinkle spices over this, such as paprika, or oregano.
Veggie, calcium, filling and low cal. Even with a high fat cheese -if you truly use less than 1 oz - this is about 120 calories and gives you some excellent nutrients.

If you have been unemployed for a long time and are truly running into troubles for feeding your family, trying to get a few gigs in the catering industry is something I recommend. Especially now with the wedding season coming up. True, many of the foods serve pose a serious challenge to those of us trying to shed pounds, but it's just that, a challenge.
At the end of every gig many caterers simply throw away the left over foods, but also allow the staff to take whatever they want.
You can grab the healthier choices and bring home, maybe even freeze it? Not only did you make money that day but you ate as well.

Best of luck to all of us!

SparkPoints: (10,266)
Fitness Minutes: (17,748)
Posts: 598
5/16/09 1:07 A

When my husband and I met, we had a $40 weekly grocery budget, so $20 each. Granted, this was a few years ago, but we made this work for several years. It was not easy and did not provide much variety.

I made chili weekly. Day 1, we had chili. Day 2, we had hot dogs(turkey dogs if they were on sale). Day 3, we had...drum roll...chili dogs. We had vegetarian pasta and soup weekly as well. I also shopped in 3 stores to spend the $40. Store 1: Big Lots for 25 cent cans of vegetables or soups or other revolving inventory I might make use of that week. Store 2: Discount grocery store where the selection was limited but the price was right. Store 3: Main grocery store for a few essentials that were not available at store 1 or 2.
Good luck!

Posts: 10
5/15/09 8:13 P

Probably won't help right now, but there's a new website starting up that offer price comparisons for local stores on a wiki/ type system (you put in all the prices on your grocery receipts and other people can see the comparisons. There's not much there now, but I hope lots of people will enter their local prices and get it going. It's

Posts: 5
5/15/09 3:36 A

This won't help short term, but in the long run would help considerably. If you have a small patch of yard, plant a small garden. One good size tomato plant will produce more than you will want to eat of tomatoes and doesnt require much care.

Posts: 31
5/14/09 10:45 P

I am assuming that if you have no job, and no money that you also have no health insurance. I strongly suggest that you make an appointment at the county hospital or county clinic and enroll. There they have nutritionists and social workers there that can guide you to food banks and get you help. Plus...if you later get sick you are already enrolled, and they know your history.

Posts: 2,426
5/14/09 10:41 P

Look into dry lentils. They cook much faster than other dried beans and are super cheap.

The last time I bought a 900g (2lb) bag of green lentils it was just over $2 CDN at my somewhat expensive downtown grocery store. And that's 1044 calories and 81g of protein. If my brain isn't fried tonight I think that's around 5c / 100 calories.

If you have the spices, the filling for these is delicious:

This recipe would be super cheap - use brown rice and start it at the same time as the lentils (I made it, wouldn't call it exciting but it was decent):

Posts: 4,255
5/14/09 10:34 P

I know a bag of dried beans here is just about $1.00 and lentils are even less. I can get 6 servings out of one bag.
Have your thought about your local farm market for things like onions and fresh veggies? I get mine much cheaper at the local farm store but the selection is minimal.

Posts: 389
5/14/09 10:15 P

I've come up with a figure I call "PPHC" = price per hundred calories. To eat for a week on $25 I will need to keep PPHC below 16.2 cents on average. Now I just need to go to the store to figure out which foods have a PPHC of less than 16.2c.

I took a look at the PDF you linked to (thanks!). It looks like frozen/canned vegetables, milk, rice, eggs, oatmeal, bread, peanut butter, jelly, and SOME fresh fruits (such as bananas) potentially might be low PPHC items. I notice they didn't have any brown/black beans on the list, though I'm almost certain they are cheap enough to count. I wonder what others there might be...

Posts: 75
5/14/09 4:18 P

There apparently was a challenge going on in illinos about eating on 25 dollars a week, you can go to this website and download a pdf with a shopping list and weekly menu planner. It look reasonable to me.
ction-month/ thats the website, here is the address to the pdf
Good luck!

SparkPoints: (47,333)
Fitness Minutes: (14,972)
Posts: 2,073
5/14/09 2:56 P

I would seriously check out if there is an Angel food ministries in your area -- it allows you to keep animal eating protien pretty cheap

Posts: 389
5/14/09 2:47 P

I really am trying to survive on $25 a week right now.

I have all the usual staples on hand, so that's a plus. I suppose you might call it the "unemployed and nearly bankrupt" weight loss plan. If I figure any kind of plan out, I plan to post it to my blog. I hope it does not come down to having to decide between food vs. rent, but it's looking like I may have to make that decision in July if I don't find a job by then!

Posts: 75
5/14/09 2:23 P

I think that it can be done, but i do agree that you would need to have some staples on hand. Just basics, flour, beans, rice. And are you only tring to feed one person? A famliy would be harder, but again I think doable. You would need to have a plan, but be flexible enough to shop for sale and store brand items. Are you actually trying to do this or was it just a wandering thought?

Posts: 389
5/14/09 2:21 P

Yes. I think cooking in large batches is probably the way to do it. The idea of adding "dollars" as a nutrient might work, but only if it grew popular enough on SP that people had entered the prices of enough things to make it likely that the ingredient you selected would have a price attached to it. Otherwise you'd have to do an awful lot of sticker-shopping to gather the necessary data!

A friend of mine said this might be feasible if you ate a diet consisting largely of beans, rice, oats, soups and pastas.

SparkPoints: (47,333)
Fitness Minutes: (14,972)
Posts: 2,073
5/14/09 12:53 P

I think it could be done but you would need to start out with money up front (say $100) to buy basics (flours, beans, pastas, rice, etc) in larger quantities and it would involve baking your own breads and what not. But I imagine it could be done -- The Angle Ministries boxes are only $30/month and supply quite a bit of food for one person and they also have add on produce boxes. It can be done

Posts: 2,388
5/14/09 8:02 A

I don't know if it would work to let you set dollars as a "value" on spark. As far as eating on 25 dollars a week, that averages to about $1.19 per meal assuming you eat 3 meals a day. Even some of the cheapest frozen dinners I have seen would be out of budget ($1.22 each). So to make it work, you would need to by fairly cheap things that will last a while.

If you paid the "typical" price for things, it really would be impossible. Here are some tips on bringing the price down.

1. Watch fliers and buy when things are heavily on sale. At the right time, I got sweet potatoes .39 per pound, banana .39 per pound, a 3 pound bag of apples for just 1.99, a quart of strawberries for $1.50. Typical prices, heck no...

2. Buy store brand - On frozen fruits and veggies, the store brands are almost always cheaper then other brands. The store brand of crackers are usually much cheaper too

3. Shop discount stores - I found surprising bargains at places like Ocean State Job Lot, the dollar tree store, Walmart, Target and other similar stores. The selection isn't always consistent, but I have gotten great deals on nuts, rice and pasta at places you would not ordinarily think to look for them.

4. Bye in bulk on products with long shelf life. If you get the generic brand of oatmeal might run you about 2.50 cents a big tub of oatmeal that has about 30 servings.

5. Clip coupons, but only for products you would want. I consider Fiber One cereal a good choice. I bought some with a coupon that made it about 2 dollars a box.

6. While you are on unemployment, see if you qualify for assistants for things like food stamps, local churches that give out food and local food pantries. If you only make 25 per week, my guess is you qualify.

7. If you live in one of the states where it literally pays to recycle, take walks, bring plastic bags with you, and collect empty soda and beer bottles. Turn these in for cash and use it add to your food budget. (Ok, I realize this doesn't fit in the perimeters of what you are looking for.) I made an extra 200 dollars last year just doing this very casually.

Edited by: AURORA629 at: 5/14/2009 (08:07)

Posts: 10
5/14/09 8:02 A

I don't know about $25 a week but you might be able to get some ideas from the Hillbilly Housewife.

I have used her tips to try to keep my shopping down. I also utilize coupons and I use them on the day that my grocery store doubles coupons.

Posts: 4,255
5/13/09 9:48 P

Good question.
I think it is possible if you had some things already stocked in your pantry and freezer.
A big pot of chili or beans would last a couple days for lunch and dinner and if you used dry beans and no meat or little meat it would be pretty cheap to make.
It also depends on what you eat. If you eat organic and only fresh it would be very hard. Frozen veggies are much cheaper if you get them on sale.
Even depending on where you live would make a difference I would think.

Posts: 389
5/13/09 8:24 P

I've been wondering lately if it is possible for a person to eat for under $25 a week. That's how much I'm receiving in unemployment and I joked to a friend "That's not even enough to cover food!" But that got me thinking, IS IT? It would be interesting to add a nutrient to the SparkRecipe calculator called "dollars" (corresponding to the typical price of the ingredient) and then see how low one can make this figure for one week's worth of shopping. Has anyone ever tried this? I'd be curious to know!

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