Can a hard-working, grown man survive on spending only $20 a week on food? You may be surprised. Thinking to myself as I left the local Aldi’s grocery store with a shopping cart full of a month’s groceries, I realized my last $80 shopping trip was the day before the last holiday, exactly 4 weeks ago. However to be fair, after the couple times I had eaten out during that span, the average comes out to more like 25 dollars a week to eat. Living on my own has made me look at ways to save money on the food bill.
Shop at Aldi’s or at other grocery stores that sell generic brands of groceries cheap. Aldi’s stores sell a generic brand of food for, in most situations, a lower price. The flip side is, a knowledge of the groceries offered is needed to develop a sense of what you can deal with and what you cannot tolerate. Occasional wood in the spinach or small crumbly fish bones in the tuna for example may not bother you. On the other hand, for example, I do not buy their toasted oats cereal because of my personal taste preferences.
Shop for variety with a strong focus on price: Although price is the main focus, price cannot be the only focus while shopping. Eating only corn flakes because they are cheapest will drive anyone crazy. Be willing to pay a few pennies more on groceries in order to attain variety. The cheaper hamburgers taste downright awful because they are from a poor cut of beef, making the higher quality hamburgers worth paying an extra dollar for. Buy the occasional treat. A box of cookies, can of fruit, or other food that you really like goes a long way in keeping your eating enjoyable without breaking the bank.
Mix foods in order to maximize flavor and appeal: Know what shortcuts you can get away with. For example, with oatmeal, one teaspoon of maple syrup gives the oatmeal flavor, but adding a tablespoon of cheap white sugar eliminates the need to use a lot of maple syrup for sweetness. Plain bran flakes cereal gets bland fast. Mixing three parts of bran flakes with one part sweet cereal (usually Honey Crunch and Oats, a frosted flakes cereal with almonds) makes the bran flakes appealing.
Focus hard on price per pound when shopping: You don’t want to be buying 12 oz boxes of food when the 1 pound boxes for ten cents more have a lower price per pound. Item prices can be confusing but the unit price is tied to a consistent unit of measurement, giving you a better idea of the actual food cost.
Remember to eat healthy: There is no sense in compromising your health to keep the food bill down. If you have to live off peanut butter and jelly, buying wheat or whole grain breads are a healthy alternative to white bread. Rice is a cheap food, and can be flavored using extra ramen noodle flavor packages. (Usually a seasoning package is enough to flavor two Ramen soup packages.) Buy vegetables and don’t forget to buy meats (or other suitable foods if you are vegetarian.) Pasta, canned pasta soups, and the like are cheap but should not be your only staple food. It is worth paying a few extra dollars for a healthier variety in your food.
Don’t pay for beverages: Notice subway and other restaurants give free refills on their sodas? It’s probably running them only a nickel per refill. For 95 cents, one can of juice concentrate makes 1.5-3 liters (roughly a third to three quarters of a gallon) of juice mix. (The can says it makes 1.42L but the individual’s tolerance to watering down the juice plays into the equation.) Evaporated milk is the cheapest way to acquire milk. Soda, bottled water and pre-mixed juice bottles are more expensive. The quality of the city’s water supply and the individual’s tolerance of tap water plays a part; a water filter can be bought but will need replacement cartridges.
Eat at home and pack lunches: Prepared foods, snacks, and bought lunches are generally a lot more expensive than if you cooked the food at home or packed a lunch.
Don’t throw away food: Take the care to not have food spoil and eat leftovers. Leftovers can be used in cooking to make good tasting dishes or just simply warmed up and eaten. Food left over from yesterday’s cooking can be a relief when you don’t have to cook when tired from work.
Accept all free food: If a friend offers you food to have, accept. Many times, people will give away food free rather than see it go to waste. It’s possible to ask for food that is otherwise going to go to waste without looking like a beggar. “Oh I could take that if you’re just going to be throwing it away.” The key is being very casual and acting like it doesn’t matter if you get the free food or not.
Grow food in the garden: If you have a place to grow food (garden, patio pot, town-owned community garden, friend willing to let you grow food,) then for a minimal investment you can grow your own food. Information on growing vegetables can be obtained for free from the Internet or from books at your local library. Although seeds can be obtained for free from the vegetables you buy in the store, seed bought in pre-packaged seed packets is sure to sprout and in most cases produce a tastier crop. Herbs can also be grown if you like using herbs in cooking. Perennial herbs such as mint, oregano, thyme and chives only need to be purchased once and grow every year.
Forage for food: If you are a hunter, know your hunting seasons and go hunting. Learn what weeds, wild plants, nuts and fruits are edible and forage for them. Gather wild fruits, berries, grapes, and nuts. Make sure you are absolutely sure that the plant is what you think it is before eating it. Ask a knowledgeable friend about what’s edible or look up the plants in more than one book, preferably books with color photos to identify the plants.
So by employing these methods and tips, you will be able to keep the food bill lower. Depending on the season and also your luck, you may actually pay less than $25 for food in a week.