Would you like to feed your family really delicious and nutritious food while sticking to a budget? It's easy and fun. I have been feeding our family of two adults for about $50 a week for groceries; however, I buy mostly organic meat and organic milk and cream. If you are willing to go with non-organic meat and milk, you can feed two adults for about $40 a week and, if you've got two children under 12, you can feed your family of four for about $60-$65 a week while still serving a wide variety of food.
Now, you can get your food budget even lower - down to about $30 a week for a family of four - if you are willing to eat lots of rice and beans or pasta or ramen noodles and/or grow your own produce.
However, for those of us who enjoy really tasty, varied diets, who like to buy organic when we can and who can't grow most of our own food, it's still possible to eat for surprisingly little. My challenge for myself was to see how low I could go while still making exquisitely tasty and nutritious food. While I don't buy all organic, I do buy mostly organic meats. If you are not as much of a stickler about this as I am, you will save even more.
The types of menus I've been cooking: a German style dinner of apple-smoked sausage, sweet and sour red cabbage, fried apples and mashed potatoes; a South American style dinner of ceviche tostadas with fresh guacamole; A vegetarian dinner of cheesy cauliflower soup and open-faced sandwiches made of baguettes topped with goat cheese, caramelized onions and roasted red peppers. The total costs for these meals was about $2 per person.
My tricks to eating really delicious meals for less:
1) Use the circulars from the local Sprouts, Randalls and HEB to plan menus around what is on sale
2) Cook things you and your family like so it's easy to get them to eat the leftovers. Eating leftovers is like finding spare change in your pocket. Throwing out leftovers is like throwing out cash.
3) Use your freezer wisely. If you have a chest freezer, use it to stock up on meats when they are on sale, or on cheese or bread. Or roasted red peppers. Make mass quantities of soups or casseroles or stews and then freeze half of them to add variety to your diet and to give you quick meals when you are busy. If you don't have a chest freezer, use what you have and consider buying a small used chest freezer by shopping Craig's list or the Sears outlet store.
4) Be creative. Don't slavishly follow recipes, but substitute sale items where you can.
6) Stick to more moderate portions for meat. For example, we eat steak at least once or twice a week, but we stick to smaller portions - Rick and I will split an 8 ounce steak, with me taking about 3 ounces and Rick getting 5. When I make a stir fry or stew, I calculate one serving as 3-4 ounces of meat.
7) Use resources like Sam's and Costco's to save money on things like paper towels, dishwashing detergent and any grocery items your family really uses a lot of that aren't on sale elsewhere.
8) Grow herbs in little pots on the windowsill. Obviously, the more food you grow, the more you will save, but many of us are too busy or don't have the space for a good sized garden. However, growing herbs gives you a lot of bang for your buck. Herbs can be grown easily in pots on the windowsill or on the patio and they are generally quite expensive to buy in the store.
Going through this week's circular, I found, among other things, eggplant, corn, tomatoes, mangoes, organic bread and organic ground beef on sale at Sprouts, as well as organic rib-eye steaks for $9.99 a pound. I found red peppers at $0.99 apiece, fresh salad mixes for $1 a piece, tilapia fillets for $2.99 a pound, pork chops for $1.99 a pound and London broil for $1.99 a pound at Randalls. HEB has canteloupe for $0.88 apiece, zucchini for $0.88 apiece, sirloin steaks for $2.97 a pound and Tyson center cut bacon on sale at $2.50 apiece.
Organizing my menu around these options, I'm going to be making, this week:
Thursday: fresh canteloupe half for breakfast; chicken fajitas with avocado, grilled red peppers and onions and corn tortillas for lunch; corn on the cob, fresh sliced tomatoes and grilled steak for dinner. The cost: $5.40 for the day if we eat the London broil; $9.40 if we go with the organic steak.
Friday: oatmeal for breakfast; pork chops, mashed potatoes, fried apples and salad for lunch; cheesy cauliflower soup, tomatoes stuffed with Italian bread salad for dinner. Total cost: $4.40
Saturday: bacon and eggs for breakfast; shepherd's pie with organic ground beef, onions, celery, carrots and topped with leftover mashed potaoes and a side salad for lunch; grilled eggplant topped with sliced tomato and cheese, grilled zucchine and corn on the cob for dinner. Total cost: $5.80; if you use non-organic beef, total cost would be $4.80.
Sunday: French toast with strawberries; shepherd's pie with salad; grilled tilapia with mango salsa and rice for dinner. Total cost: $5.99
Monday: veggie omelet, half a grapefruit for breakfast; Greek salad for lunch; veggie stir fry over brown rice for dinner. Total cost: $5.10
Tuesday: oatmeal and strawberries for breakfast; cheesy cauliflower soup and tuna salad on a bed of lettuce; the last of the shepherd's pie with salad for dinner. Total cost: $5.45
Wednesday: cheese omelet, fresh orange juice for breakfast; BLTs and the last of the cauliflower soup for lunch; chicken curry over rice and salad for dinner. Total cost: $6.55 if I use organic chicken bought on sale and saved in freezer, $4.95 for non-organic chicken.
The total cost per week for two people, using the menu above and non-organic meats, is $36.09. Add in the cost of a gallon of milk, coffee and cream, and it's about $42 a week. If, like me, you eat organic, then it's going to be closer to $50 a week.
I hope you enjoy these ideas. If you would like me to give you any of my recipes, please contact me. I will be publishing weekly menus based on the local sales circulars for the week each Wednesday, which is when the circulars come out. Please note that Sprouts honors sales for both the current and preceding week on Wednesday.