Could You Survive Spending Only $25 A Week For Food?

The Illinois Food Bank Association issued a challenge to Illinoisans — could they survive by spending only $25 a week for food? $25 a week is the average weekly food stamp benefit that an individual receives in Illinois. Could you make such a small amount last while still eating nutritious meals?

Every week, thousands of Illinoisans struggle to feed themselves and their families on less than $25 per person each week – or approximately $3.50 a day. If this sounds nearly impossible, it is. As a result, more and more of our neighbors are turning to food banks and pantries just to make ends meet.

The challenge is over now and the participants have shared what they learned about hunger and about frugality.

One poster, named Becky, was optimistic about the project. With $100 to feed four people, she thought she could clip coupons and make it work:

We all worked together to plan our menu (a lot of carbs, leftovers, and pb&j), collect coupons, and find the best sales. We between 2 coupons we had, a brand deal, and a store discount we actually got 6 boxes of cereal for free! However, at the store, when we had to stay away from our organic, whole grain, carbonated fruit juice all natural soda, and anything at all convenient the challenge began to be less of game and sunk in for real. We were terrified as our sub-total climbed and we still had meat, dairy, and produce on the list.

As the week has progressed, I feel an overwhelming sense of failure and guilt for not providing for my family. I cannot help but to think of the families who face this every week.
Now we are out of milk and fresh fruit. We have 6 boxes of cereal to eat, but no milk…

Another poster shared her shopping trip to Aldi, where she got a good deal on ingredients for chicken soup– but her family still craved between meal snacks, and her husband quit after one day.

I bought a whole chicken, a loaf of bread, a bag of salad, a box of rice, a bag of egg noodles, a gallon of milk, a box of grapes, a 24-pack of bottled water, a box of deli turkey for sandwiches, a bag of cheese and a 30-count package of eggs…all for $24.88.

Another participant was astonished at how grouchy and distracted the challenge made him:

I have lost a lot of concentration and patience due to the Challenge. I have become extremely agitated for no decent reason. Last night when I came home, my girlfriend asked me what I would like for dinner and said I wanted something I bought off my list. She said fine, but proceeded to fancy up the dinner by adding some things to it. My tone came off negative as I told her I could not have the fancied dinner because of what she was adding was not within my $25. I’m not sure if I was just grumpy because I hadn’t eaten much, but I did not like it. After I ate, I was cheerful again. It’s a weird conundrum.

The challenge is over, but that’s no reason not to challenge yourself. Can you feed yourself on $25 a week? Can you eat healthy meals? How do you save money on food?

Hunger Action Month [IFBA]
They tried eating on $25 a week [MSNMoney via Digg]
25 Dollar Challenge Blog

Comments

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  1. mbz32190 says:

    $25 is completely do-able for a single person…no, it won’t be 100% healthy, but you do what you got to do not to starve to death. Pasta and ramen are still cheap. You can get a bag of potatoes for a dollar or two. Buy a carton of eggs as well. Add in a carton of orange juice to get some fruit, a few bags of frozen veggies, and a large container of oatmeal, and that should still be well under $25.

    • mbz32190 says:

      @mbz32190:

      Forgot to add, you can do even better using coupons or shopping at discount grocery stores and dollar stores for some of the items.

      • agnamus says:

        @mbz32190: You forgot to add that coupon clipping and bargain shopping are time consuming activities that frequently require transportation (i.e. another cost). I don’t know about you, but if you’re on welfare, you’re busy enough doing things like overtime or looking for better employment. It can be done, but the time costs place a major hurdle to jump over before you can do things that help you get ahead.

        • mugsywwiii says:

          @agnamus:
          Find me a welfare recipient who is too busy working to save money.

          • lizk says:

            @mugsywwiii: How much time do you have? I have a lot of people you’ll want to meet.

          • xPorcelinax says:

            @mgsyww: G fck yrslf. My hsbnd rcvs d bcs h s dsbld. Bt cnnt gt dsblty mny, bcs tht prcss cn tk smtms p t 3 r 4 yrs. (W’v bn n t fr 2 yrs nw). wrk 50-60 hrs wk t mk nds mt. W r bth cllg dctd, nd hv prtty gd jb. hv t tk n fr-lncng wrtng nd grphcs jbs jst t mk rnt. H s thr sck, n pn, r bsy gng t th svrl dctrs ppntmnts h hs wk. S DN’T FCKNG SY NYTHNG ntl y hv bn n th sttn yrslf.

          • Jeneni says:

            @mugsywwiii: On the record: none. But consider all of the people who are working crappy under the table jobs, many well over the standard 40 hours at less than minimum wage because welfare doesn’t provide enough.

            Not to mention… just because you need food stamps-that doesn’t MEAN you are on welfare.. in fact full time college students can be entitled to foodstamps… and they can be very busy between school and work to pay off supplies.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        @mbz32190: Do the coupons from the Sunday newspaper factor into the $25 because you need to pay for the newspaper?

    • lockdog says:

      @mbz32190: Before our little boy was born my wife and I used to shop exclusively at the farmer’s market and organic food co-op here in Lexington. We tried to keep it under $40 a week, and could consistently keep it under $50. We ate pretty well, too, I’m only 150 lbs, and 15 of that are my steel-toes, so I need serious fuel if I don’t want to waste away.

      That said, having kids changes everything. Especially now that he’s in preschool and needs assorted healthy snacks everyday.

      • Mr. Guy says:

        @lockdog:
        sadly, you’re likely to pay twice the cost you’d find in a supermarket for any items you purchase at a farmers market in new york (or even albany for that matter).

        • Outrun1986 says:

          @Mr. Guy: The farmers markets aren’t bad here but some of the produce and fruits are low quality, when you eat them they really aren’t good. Some of the farmers have attitudes when selling their stuff and others are extremely nice, but some will try to push ugly fruits and veggies on you so you have to watch out for that.

          Its not worth it to go father than the city for us for a few cents savings on some produce either (the nearest Co-op is a 45-1hour drive), but there is a market in our city and a farmers market that we can hit, its not much cheaper than the grocery store though.

    • Nogard13 says:

      @mbz32190:

      I don’t know if I could do it. We spend about $110 a week for two people. There are some stuff we could get cheaper (like buying non-Organic produce), but we try to eat healthy. I cook 5-6 nights a week and we only eat out once a week unless we’re celebrating something (like a promotion, birthday, anniversary, etc), and we both bring lunch in with us. I guess we could also eat less food, but it would be tough.

      I could see doing it on a $40 a person budget, but that means that those getting food stamps would have to pay $15 out of their pocket, which isn’t unreasonable since it’s meant to supplement your budget, not be your budget.

      • antisane says:

        @Nogard13: We are a family of 4 (myself, my wife, and our two kids), and we DO stay around $100/week for groceries.

        It can be done (even without hours of coupon-hunting), we do it in such a way that there are always lunches for my kids to take to school, and my wife and I take packaged leftovers to work for our lunches.

        Average groceries: $80-105/week, for a 2 adults in their late 30s, and two kids (11 & 12).

        We don’t eat steak 3 times a week (more like 1-2 times a month, if that), and chicken is a major staple in this house (at least twice a week).

    • SegamanXero says:

      @mbz32190: I actully live like this at the moment… being broke is not fun at all… when your in need, food pantries and save-a-lot are your best friends…

    • Decaye says:

      @Jeneni: I really don’t understand how some people seem to have so much trouble getting by. My mom qualified for food stamps and other assistance every year since she left my dad, even though she was working full time, but she never requested any sort of aid. She also never missed a house payment, a credit card payment, nor did I or my brother ever miss a meal. She also somehow found 10 minutes in her week to clip coupons. I can’t even imagine how those busy unemployed people could manage to do it.

      Life isn’t that hard.

      • Jeneni says:

        @Decaye: I see your point but keep in mind that different people have different situations. Maybe your mom’s car didn’t break down or you didn’t have any major medical problems comes up, maybe you she was lucky to already have a stable home when she began to have problems.

        And life is very very hard.

        Some people don’t have all of the same resources that everyone else has… not everyone has marketable skills, support from their family, etc. It’s not fair to assess life for everyone based on the life of one person. That’s a very dismissive way of looking at the world, and it’s not very honest or accurate.

  2. TracyHamandEggs says:

    But food stamps are supposed to be a supplement, not your entire food budget… Between Section 8 housing, Welfare and food stamps I guess working isnt required.

    • Illusio26 says:

      @TracyHamandEggs!: That kind of what I was thinking. Not that I don’t feel bad for people who can’t make ends meet, but I thought food stamps were supposd to be a supplement for the food budget as well.

    • tasselhoff76 says:

      @TracyHamandEggs!: I am not sure on that. My extremely limited research on this subject is that for a person to be qualified, their gross income cannot be more than 130% of the national poverty limit and their net income cannot be more than 100% of that limit. It appears that for a single person that limit is $10,400 (130% of which is $13,520) or for a family of two $14,000 (130% = $18,200). Additionally, it looks like they cannot have more than about $2,000 in assets (this doesn’t include their home – assuming the own one) or certain cars.

      As with most public assistance benefits, the qualifications and benefits vary from state to state, but my understanding has always been that the food stamps are for people really not making very much and they often do not have the extra money to supplement the food stamp resource. Whether or not the programs always achieve this objective or whether participants exploit it is subject to debate. However, that’s with everything.

    • @TracyHamandEggs!: The problem with any and all of the programs you mentioned is that you have to be below a certain level of income (varies state to state) to qualify for any of them. You can’t get welfare if you have a decent job – it’s FOR people without disposable income. Same goes for section 8 – it’s for people in a situation where they can’t afford a place to live on their own. I’ve heard that in some states, you can’t earn more than $800 / mo to qualify for such programs. I’m going on word of mouth here, and I don’t have time to fact check it, so forgive me if I’m incorrect. Let’s assume that number is correct. A single person making less than $800 / mo w/ $25 per week in food stamps is not going to live well. Food stamps don’t cover everything at the grocery store – they cover food. If you want toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo, soap, or diapers for your child, you’re on your own. So let’s take a single person making $800 per month. Let’s say they spend an additional $25 at the grocery store each week. Now we’re down to $700. Now gas for the car. Let’s lowball that and say $50 / week. Now we’re down to $500. Now let’s factor in utilities. $20 for a phone (again, lowballing), and an average of let’s say $80 for electricity (yea, I know it varies – just an estimate). Now you’re down to $400.

      $400 is all that’s left after factoring in all the essentials. That’s not including medical expenses, car maintenance, ANY sort of entertainment, an internet connection, car payments, and any other sudden one time expenses that may come up in day to day living.

      People stuck in a situation where they have to rely on government aid often feel trapped – they can’t earn more money – if they do, the aid goes away, and their new income isn’t enough to counteract it. At the same time, they’re not living well on the government aid. It’s a messy situation, and it’s poorly regulated by the government. I’ve had friends in situations like what I’ve described, and it’s not a comfortable or easy life.

      • crouton976 says:

        @What The Geek: One thing you forgot to mention, and what I’m sure most people overlook, is the fact that most people who are living this way somehow have gotten themselves into debt via credit cards, title loans, etc. and also have to pay those bills out of the $400 figure you derived, making it even harder to survive.

        Personally, I think that welfare is a joke. I mean, that’s incredibly insulting to only allow $25 a week for food and ONLY food. What’s REALLY sad is that if you totaled the money we spend on welfare each week and started subtracting it form our elected officials salary, we’d have welfare and the job market solved in what, 2 weeks? I mean, if we can “solve” a $700 billion international economic crisis in 2 weeks, this should be a walk in the park.

  3. zigziggityzoo says:

    My wife and I eat on $20/week each. We’ve been doing this for two months now. It’s not as hard as you think.

    • Scuba Steve says:

      @zigziggityzoo: I was gonna add a whole lot of snark, but rather, I’ll just ask, How?

      I’m cooking a bit, but 20 dollars a week sounds insane.

      • lizk says:

        @Scuba Steve: It’s not too hard–I’ve done it, too. I think a lot of this has to do with location. Living in a pretty small city, groceries are very cheap. $20 a week will get me plenty of staples to make several meals, as long as I’m willing to eat vegetarian for a few of them.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      @zigziggityzoo:
      I remember reading a blog post of a guy that tried a month on $30, or $1 a day. Basically he ate ramen, rice, and oatmeal.

      He lost like 20 pounds because his nutrition was shit, but he wasn’t hungry.

    • moore850 says:

      @zigziggityzoo: There’s a big difference between $40/week and $25/week for two people, because as the article implies, you start to hit a threshold at $25 on the minimum price of food staples necessary to purchase enough to eat for the week.

      • zigziggityzoo says:

        @moore850: To that, I’ll reply that if I were on food stamps, my wife and I both would be getting them, bringing our total to $50/week, not $40.

        It’s not difficult to get variety if you already have a fairly well-stocked spice cabinet. I know that’s outside the realm of the $40, but it’s not something I replenish weekly, either.

        I can buy a two loaves of bread for $2, A jar of PB for $1, and some Jelly from the farmer’s market for $2.50, and that’s 14 meals.

        A half pound of cheese is $1.67, and a pound of chicken breast can be had for $2 on sale, so add another loaf a of bread for $1 and there’s another 4-6 sandwiches.

        Dinner? We eat Velveeta shells and cheese every so often 5 for $8 at Costco/Sam’s, Frozen vegetables are $1/pound at the grocery store, and fresh ground beef can be had for $2-4/lb. depending, which I separate, vacuum seal, and freeze so it wont go bad.

        Moral of the story: Watch for sales, you can eat pork chops, chicken breast, and on occasion, a decent steak for less than $4/pound, sometimes as low as $2. We eat relatively well.

  4. Frank The Tank says:

    No, I could not.

    Call me insensitive – but get a job and then spend what you can afford for food.

    I work for my money. I buy what I want. What is so hard about that concept? Get a job and stop making our economy tank even harder.

  5. FatLynn says:

    Anyone else think the poster who bought bottled water probably could have re-thought that?

    My groceries are typically around $25/week, but I already have a pantry full of staple foods and spices. For example, it’s amazing what you can do with ramen if you swap out 1/4 of the water for lime juice and add some crushed peanuts.

    • MameDennis says:

      @FatLynn:
      Seriously… she’s trying to maximize her nutrition dollar, and she goes for *bottled water*… It’s just beyond words.

    • mcs328 says:

      @FatLynn: Yeah the case of bottle water is like 5 bucks for 24 bottles. She spent 20% of her budget on something she can use a Brita filter with from tap water.

    • @FatLynn: Yeah, I agree. She really wasn’t making frugal purchases. Probably someone who has never had to want for anything in her life.

      It’s a good exercise for those people who just don’t get it.

    • @FatLynn: That one stood out to me, too. I also was thinking powdered milk might have been a better option.

      I also would have skipped deli meat for PB&J, and focused my protein dollars on dinner.

      And I agree, you can do a lot with rice & beans and a cabinet full of spices! But that requires you to have a cabinet full of spices.

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        @Eyebrows McGee: i don’t know how it varies across the country, but fresh milk near me is less expensive than powdered milk in the long term, IF you don’t factor in the time and gas required to get it. i know some places milk is more expensive than here though, i live in an area that has a lot of farm country and dairies are local.

    • ConsumerA says:

      @FatLynn:

      She also could’ve saved money and had better nutrition by buying bagged rice instead of boxed rice. Bagged rice is usually a lot cheaper and more nutritious that boxed ‘instant’ rices.

    • bunt says:

      @FatLynn: Not only that, but it looks like that person bought dinner for only 1 night for ~$25 for her family. Assuming that they eat rice, eggs, and BOTTLED FUCKING WATER for breakfast and lunch, thats still only 1 day. If they have a family of 4, well… i guess they were close.

    • seeker1321 says:

      @FatLynn:

      Yes I agree with the post here, I could have gotten double the food she got at Aldi’s for $25.

      Breakfast for the week: 1 boxes of cereal and 1 gallon of milk. $5

      Lunch: PB, Jelly, Bologna, a loave of bread, box of ramein (12). $7 (that is enough for about 1.5 weeks of lunches)

      Which leaves $13 for dinner. There are a ton of different combinations you could buy. If you wanted vegs at every meal, you can get a can for $.50 (corn, greenbeans, peas, mixed, etc..) So $2 for veg for the week (1/2 can per meal). $2 for a bag of rice. 2# of ground turkey for $3. A whole chicken for $4 Dinner total: $11

      Which leaves $2 extra this week, so buy 4 different spices at $.50 a bottle. Next week take the any extra and buy a bag of flour, the following week a bag of sugar and so on.

      This would be even easier the more people you have to feed, you can feed two for $50 even easier then one for $25.
      If you want variety sub in soups, pastas, other lunch meats, and other things. Trust me when you don’t have a lot of money you learn to be creative.

    • I_Spy says:

      @FatLynn: I’m kind of surprised that nobody picked up on the “bagged” salad. You can get a head of iceberg lettuce for much less, and with the difference in cost you can throw in some carrots and maybe even cucumbers or tomatoes depending on where you live and what season it is.

      Some may think it’s not as fancy as the “Spring Mix” since it’s iceberg lettuce, but you’re looking for quantity and nutritional value for the $$ which this has compared to anything pre-made.

      • TangDrinker says:

        @I_Spy: Bagged salad at Aldi’s is cheaper than a head of lettuce at some stores, at least it is in NC. And bottled water is pretty cheap, there, too.

  6. proskills says:

    I’m not sure that I could do this and still be healthy. Even with $2 frozen dinners (9,$18), some bread($2), and a few veggies($5), you would stave off starvation, but you would also have less than 1000 calories / day.

  7. Shallots says:

    You can absolutely eat healthy for under $25 if you shop correctly, using sales, loss leaders, and in-season produce as your guide. Organic might be out, but it can be done.

    The Aldi woman could have cut her total in half if she had bought a head of lettuce instead of packaged salad, a bag of rice instead of a box, and left the bottled water on the shelf.

    • jonmason1977 says:

      @Shallots:
      She also bought a “bag” of cheese (I assumed prepacked either grated or sliced), instead of getting a block and grating/slicing yourself.

      She could easily have spent a lot less than $25 if she shopped frugally…

    • FatLynn says:

      @Shallots: I think part of the problem on food stamps would be never stocking up. I agree with your methods; I may spend $10 on a big bag of rice now and not have to buy more for six months, but not everybody has that $10 to get ahead.

      • Shallots says:

        @FatLynn: That’s a great point, FL, and I didn’t consider it. For non-WIC shoppers, it could definitely help with the budget, but I didn’t think of how tenable it is for folks just squeaking by.

  8. I bought a whole chicken, a loaf of bread, a bag of salad, a box of rice, a bag of egg noodles, a gallon of milk, a box of grapes, a 24-pack of bottled water, a box of deli turkey for sandwiches, a bag of cheese and a 30-count package of eggs…all for $24.88.
    And her family complained about wanting mid meal snacks and her husband quit after one day? Sounds a little elitist to me. And the first person who complained they couldn’t buy their organic soda? The farmer down the road from me accepts WIC. Try a local farmers market. You can work with them better than the grocer at prices. When I was un-employed and didn’t qualify for un-employment b/c the HR person at work lied to me, I managed to live off very little, with a good amount of variety. True, it’s not the “best” but the only people who really need all of the nutrients are growing children, which is why there are also programs like WIC.

    • katylostherart says:

      @Git Em SteveDave loves this guy–>: wic is pretty crappy. my friend was on wic for a while. they would give her coupons for shit like four gallons of milk and 4lbs of cheese that she was supposed to use in a week. but they didn’t give her fruits and vegetables. she could also get cereal. who the hell eats 4lbs of cheese by itself? they didn’t even provide a coupon for something like bread to make grilled cheese. she would trade the milk and cheese with other women she knew for fruit and meat.

      god i hope this has changed. it was ridiculous.

    • Super_Kitten says:

      @Git Em SteveDave loves this guy–>: I get your point, but I think “elitist” is the wrong word, and plays into the terrible stereotypes about urban people who eat organic foods etc versus “Joe Sixpack.” Midday snacks are important for maintaining good energy levels, mood, and weight by boosting metabolism, and I don’t think it’s snobby to want that. It may be somewhat spoiled to expect bottled water, but I don’t think wanting, say, crackers between meals would be.

  9. tasselhoff76 says:

    I really do not think I could do this and still be healthy. You likely are not going to get whole grains or decent fruits or vegetables for $25 per week.

    • @tasselhoff76: BS. I spend 20 bucks at the Farmer’s market every week and have plenty of fruits and vegtables. I buy a bag of frozen chicken breast at Wally World for 8 bucks, its three pounds. Buy some milk and eggs and you are set. With a household of recipients it would be easy. For the single person not so much but these benefits are hardly ever for a single person.

      I am positive that my Mother fed us on much less than that growing up. Even adjusted for inflation and she never took government assistance. People just don’t have the time to be self reliant and the government should take care of every need.

      Also as others have pointed out, the food stamps are supplements and are not supposed to be fully supportive.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @tasselhoff76: It’s very possible that you can’t have the variety you require to be at your healthiest, no…but bananas are still cheaper than red grapes. I tend to buy mine in bulk when they’re 99 cents a pound. Stock up on six pounds or so and they keep really well in the fridge. Bananas are $1.50 a pound, and you can survive on basic fruits.

      It just takes lower expectations (which is what I think many people in this challenge had problems with) and more mental conditioning.

  10. outinthedark says:

    I was about to say my food budget runs about $80-100 for the month…but I buy most of my produce from local farmers rather than the store.

    I could definitely do this challenge!

    • tasselhoff76 says:

      @outinthedark: We buy from local farmers as well. However, their prices are considerably higher than the ones we find in the grocery store. Fortunately, we have the money to pay but I am having trouble seeing how you are saving money with local farmers.

      • dewsipper says:

        @tasselhoff76: Some of the local farmers here are dirt cheap, too. Especially at the Farmer’s Market (in a parking lot every Friday), but only during “in season”. When I lived in a more urban environment (translation: an area with more than two traffic lights per town), the prices were much higher, even from the same farmers. Go figure…

  11. jimv2000 says:

    McDonald’s double cheeseburger + water x 14 = $13.86
    Egg McMuffin x 7 = $6.93

    Total = $ 20.79

    • Adisharr says:

      @jimv2000:

      You forgot to add in Triple bypass x 1.

    • gnubian says:

      @jimv2000:

      You also forgot that you can’t buy fast food with foodstamps …

    • shorty63136 says:

      @jimv2000: Lipitor is still expensive though.

      • Brookeorama says:

        @shorty63136:

        Well if you are on food stamps your probably as well on some sort of gov’t insurance (Medicaid).. So the Liptor, would more then likely be accessible (and free). So you eat up those double cheeseburgers, you have insurance now too!!

        In Michigan it is pretty standard to qualify for Medicaid and food stamps. Its a slam dunk system like that. You sign up for one and you’ll get both.

    • katylostherart says:

      @jimv2000: ahahaha. is mcd’s one of the places that has $1 side salads? i lived on those from jack in the box for about 7 months.

  12. I have been doing roughly $20-$30 a week per person in my apartment of four for two years now.

    • samurailynn says:

      @TalKeaton: Yeah, I think $30×4 for my four person household is about what we spend. And that’s with an occasional fast food dinner and my husband’s need for carbonated beverages. So, if I received $25 per person per week of food stamps, and I threw in an extra $5 from my own money, I’d only be spending $20 per week on groceries. I think that’s reasonable.

  13. SkokieGuy says:

    Brown rice, beans, lentils, eggs. Bruised discounted vegetables for soups. My local dollar store often has canned items (black beans, garbanzo, string beans, peas, etc.) 2 for $1.00.

    It is totally possible to do this, but part of the issue is people in economically depressed areas often do not have access to well stocked supermarkets.

    If you have to buy at the local bodega or convenience store, prices are high, selections limited.

  14. Etoiles says:

    I spent nearly two years surviving on $25 a week in food. In New York City.

    I ate a lot of peanut butter sandwiches and ramen. Gained 14 pounds. Not one of the better periods of my life.

  15. Robobot says:

    It isn’t fun, but it’s doable- even at D.C.-area prices. My boyfriend and I lived on $30-$40 a week combined this summer and he eats for at least two people. We now live on less than that, sometimes as little as $15 a week combined. Buying frozen lean meats and veggies in bulk is the secret.

    Boyfriend has a temporary job working in a salad joint. He usually works two shifts a day, so that’s 9 veggie-filled meals a week plus 50% off while off duty. Working food service isn’t fun, but it’s a good way to get cheap or reduced-priced meals.

    There is also a local food co-op that pays in $7 worth of (vegan) food per hour of work, so we’re going to start doing that on the weekends.

    • TracyHamandEggs says:

      @Quietly: I spent a couple years working at a restaurant before going back to school. Between the heavy pasta daily server meal, the occasional leftover lasagna/bread, a rare pilfered steak that was sent back and some gift cards I earned from contest I barely ever went to the grocery store. A box of corn flakes, a half gallon of milk and a bag of apples a week was about the only grocery shopping I did.

      Of course, any savings were immediately blown at the bar.

    • samurailynn says:

      @TracyHamandEggs!: I used to work at a retirement home that provided meals for the residents. We were allowed to eat one meal in the cafeteria while on duty, but if you wanted to grab something like toast or a bagel for breakfast, they didn’t count that as your meal. So, I had breakfast and lunch covered 5 days a week. That was awesome since I barely made enough money to pay my rent on my 7×9 bedroom.

  16. BeeBoo says:

    It is very possible but you have to be a careful shopper and plan your meals around what is on sale and stock up on staples when they are on sale. You have to cook beans from dried rather than buying canned and you don’t eat meat a lot and when you do it’s not expensive cuts. You eat seasonal fruits and vegetables or frozen ones. You buy generic and you shop at the cheapest grocery stores like Aldi. You don’t get a lot of prepared foods, not even things like Bisquick or mac and cheese. You buy the big thing of yogurt, not the little cups.

    Ironically, such a $25 a week diet is healthier than the average American diet.

    I will say I do know a mother with two kids in Michigan getting food stamps. She is a good shopper but they get a lot of things like steak and crab legs and she still has so much credit that she buys groceries for other people and they give her cash.

    In Michigan you can buy soft drinks with food stamps and it even covers the bottle deposit. She said she has seen someone buying soda with food stamps, pouring it out, returning the containers in the automated machines, and then using the deposit refund to buy beer. Shameful.

    • tasselhoff76 says:

      @BeeBoo: It has been mentioned before, but it is hard to stock up when you are limited to $25 per week. And it also requires you to have access to stores offering these specials.

  17. bbagdan says:

    I could survive but probably couldn’t live very healthily considering my nutritional needs as an athlete.

    $25 is pushing it. However,for $35/week, no problem at all. I’m currently at about $40-45/week.

    The problem is work. Work means less time to bake my own bread, etc.

  18. thesadtomato says:

    My food stamps were $37.50 a week per single person in Washington state in 2006 (when I lived there) and I usually ran out of money at the end of the third week every month. Why? Where I lived everything had to come by ferry and cost a bunch more No options for super cheap groceries. I ate meat maybe once a week, usually the cheapest chicken or salmon I could find. I ate healthily, but cheaply. Mostly vegetables, rice, beans, and bread.

    Where you live matters, what money you make, and your expenses. I earned $700 a month, paid $300 in rent and utilities, $300 in student loans and had $100 for entertainment/emergencies (a dr’s visit, a new tire for my bike) . . and the last week of food per month.

  19. FatLynn says:

    Also, when the congresscritters did it, they had $21. You can read about it here:

    [foodstampchallenge.typepad.com]

  20. henrygates says:

    If your free food stamps aren’t enough to feed yourself, get a job.

    • FatLynn says:

      @henrygates: Wouldn’t it be easier just to find rich men to take me to dinner?

    • Etoiles says:

      @henrygates: That attitude really is part of the problem.

      There are individuals and families routinely hungry — and they are working. If you live someplace like Harlem (and yes I lived there, so I do actually know what I’m talking about) your rent is skyrocketing, you have an hour-long commute by subway, and you work at least one if not two or three jobs just to keep a roof over your head and a winter coat on your kid’s back. Food is easier to cut back on because you can do it piecemeal — you can’t rent half a room. (Well, you sort of can, but not with any stability.)

    • DrGirlfriend says:

      @LiC: Yeah, the no sales tax vs income tax hete in Oregon is basically an example of “robbing Peter to pay Paul”. It’s cool to not have sales tax, but a single tear runs down my cheek when I see what I get taxed every paycheck.

    • DrGirlfriend says:

      @henrygates: Other facile and condescending answers to all of life’s problems: If healthcare is costing you too much, get healthy already. If your job doesn’t pay enough, get a raise already. If gas costs too much, stop using your car already.

      (Also, my previous reply in this post was attached here uncorrectly, should have gone elsewhere. Sorry about the nonsequitur.)

      • DrGirlfriend says:

        @DrGirlfriend: “Incorrectly.” Eek!

      • captainpicard says:

        @DrGirlfriend:
        Actually your almost completely correct. All of those are directly influenced by the amount of education you have received. For anyone how is poor and underprivaledged (sp?) there are an abundant of programs out there for you to go to school. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, finding someone to babysit your 2 children while you work all day and attend night school is hard but the long term benefits outweight the short term headaches. Unfourtunatly most people lack the drive/willpower to do something like that. (BTW, I did use to live on foodstamps and I did use to live in a bad area with high rent and high crime but I did go to school and graduate, now things are better).

    • xPorcelinax says:

      @hnrygts: cnnt blv hv t sy ths GN….bt…

      G fck yrslf. My hsbnd rcvs d bcs h s dsbld. Bt cnnt gt dsblty mny, bcs tht prcss cn tk smtms p t 3 r 4 yrs. (W’v bn n t fr 2 yrs nw). wrk 50-60 hrs wk t mk nds mt. W r bth cllg dctd, nd hv prtty gd jb. hv t tk n fr-lncng wrtng nd grphcs jbs jst t mk rnt. H s thr sck, n pn, r bsy gng t th svrl dctrs ppntmnts h hs wk. S DN’T FCKNG SY NYTHNG ntl y hv bn n th sttn yrslf.

      • BeeBoo says:

        @xPorcelinax: You should be banned from this website for your foul language. You certainly don’t come across as “college educated” [sic].

      • Tedicles says:

        @xPorcelinax:

        Sorry that you are having a tough time, but don’t take it out on other readers/posters here. If your husband is diasabled, how about some work from home online? There must be someway for him/you to scrape together a little extra if need be, without knowing the details, it sounds like he sits at home all day long. I’m sure it a tough situation, but many (if not almost all) of us here struggle day to day in various forms.

        BTW…I am single and live on about $25 per week at most, it’s not the healthiest diet, but I eat what I want and don’t think I would eat more veggies or fruit just because I had more money!

  21. dry-roasted-peanuts says:

    I average around $15 to $20 a week (single guy). Very easy to do by avoiding any “packaged” foods, junk foods (cookes, soda, chips, etc.) and not being afraid of leftovers. Just buy raw fruit, veggies, meat and grains.

    /and as far as any question of health go: I’m 6 foot, weigh around 185, exercise 6 times a week (alternating weights and cardio) and haven’t been sick in about 5 years.

  22. LiC says:

    I just moved out to Oregon from Kansas. I did it before, shopping trip once every 2 weeks, but I can do a lot better here because there is NO SALES TAX. What a great state. Of course I’ll probably change my mind when I get my paycheck.

    • cmdrsass says:

      @LiC: Then try moving to a state with no sales OR income tax!

    • Clobberella says:

      @LiC: I haven’t found the income tax to be all that bad, actually. I think the lack of sales tax really adds up over time, and is especially wonderful when you’re buying things like a car. The previous two states I lived in had sales tax but no income tax, at 7% in Florida and 9.5% in Tennessee (including a tax on food there) and I find myself living a lot better here in Oregon on roughly the same amount of income. It IS a great state. :)

    • Decaye says:

      @LiC: I prefer sales tax to income tax. Granted, I’m not investing anything at the moment, so it doesn’t matter, but in concept, I’d rather only the money I actually spend be taxed.

      • kingofallcosmos says:

        @Decaye:
        I prefer income tax because a sales tax punishes the poor because they do not have the luxury of saving or going out of state to avoid sales tax. Anyway, my state has both.

  23. VA_White says:

    The bottled water is an expensive extravagance on a $25 budget. So is fresh milk. She should be buying powdered milk and mixing it to put in the fridge on that kind of budget.

    Eating on $25 is possible but it won’t taste very good. It will keep you alive but that’s about it.

    There is a great website [www.hillbillyhousewife.com] that lines out how to feed your family on a budget and even she can’t do it for a family of four on less than $45 a week.

  24. sonneillon says:

    $25 a week is doable.
    5 lb Bag of sweet potatoes
    5 lb bag of carrots
    10 lbs of ground beef
    2 dz eggs
    Cost me $22 with my king supers card and coupons.
    To be fair though everyone I know who was on food stamps was working, but had multiple kids to support and a low paying job.

  25. JulesNoctambule says:

    My college-era food purchases were far less per week, and being a vegetarian meant I couldn’t opt for the McFood eaten by most of my friends. An average week’s food purchases would consist of a loaf of sprouted-grain bread ($3), a bagful of satsumas (10/$1), some avocados ($1 each), and lemons (10/$1; I lived in Florida), chickpeas (about .99 a pound, dried) and tahini ($3.95 a jar) to make hummus. Hummus and avocado on toast, with a satsuma in between meals. Sometimes I went to the local farmer’s market to splurge on different fruits and vegetables, all of which were fortunately affordable. Quinoa, about a dollar a pound in the grocery’s bulk section. Tempeh, $3 for about 3/4 of a pound at the farmer’s market, and swiss chard for $1.50 a bunch. Make a sauce out of the lemons and tahini mentioned above, and there’s at least three meals.

    I wasn’t wanting for nutrients but my god, I was so terribly thin.

  26. shorty63136 says:

    Awesome $7 soup recipe (this lasts me about 4 days of lunch AND dinner – I’m currently on day 4 and have some left over in the fridge):

    1 large (family sized) can of Tomato Soup ($1.14)
    1 can diced & Italian seasoned tomatoes ($0.75)
    1 can tomato sauce ($.50)
    1 bag frozen crinkle cut carrots ($0.92)
    1 bag frozen sweet corn ($1)
    1 yellow squash ($0.75)
    1 zucchini ($0.75)
    1 box small pasta shells ($1.12)

    Cut up squash and zucchini into 1/2-inch cubes
    Combine all ingredients into large pot (use THREE cans of water with tomato soup instead of one).
    Simmer on medium-low heat for about 30 minutes – do not let it boil hard or it will froth.
    Season to taste – I usually use salt, garlic salt, pepper, and dried onions/onion powder (each available in a good size for $0.50)

    All prices are approximate Wal-Mart Supercenter prices.

    • cashmerewhore says:

      @shorty63136:

      Not bad, but it needs some sort of protein. And I wouldn’t be eating four day old stew in my fridge.

      • DrGirlfriend says:

        @cashmerewhore: A vegetable only soup should be okay after the 4th day. At least, I have made huge pots of soup like that that have taken us about that long to get through. If it has any kind of meat in it, though, I’d be freezing any leftovers after the 2nd day.

        • cashmerewhore says:

          @DrGirlfriend:

          Yeah, that was my thought. It could use a side of meat or something, I wouldn’t stay full on a pot of vegetables, but I wouldn’t be eating anything more than 48 hours old in my fridge if it had meat in it.

        • shorty63136 says:

          @DrGirlfriend: Yeah, I keep my fridge very, very cold. Never had a problem with keeping (certain) things for 4 days.

          Also, adding a protein like beans doesn’t sit so well with my stomach – but you’re more than welcome to add it in. :)

  27. Sarah of Get Cooking says:

    It’s definitely possible. I think it’s a lot easier if you cook and avoid pre-packaged convenience items, as most posters stated above. The woman in the post could have stretched her money much further than she did.

    It’s not as hard if you are feeding more people, as you have a bigger budget and can get a bag of rice, for example, which can go a long way. Buy only things that are on sale, rotate and make sure you keep staples around like frozen vegetables and cheap canned items.

    Granted, it’s not a fun way to feed yourself but it can be done. I think many Americans would fare well to try this out. It really teaches you the value of a dollar and makes you think before you purchase. You get really good at arithmetic when every penny counts, but it’s stressful.

  28. Alvarez says:

    I’ve spent around $20 a week on food for the past 5 years or so. One thing I’ve learned is that dollar stores often charge $1 for something that costs less than a dollar at the grocery store. Also, I don’t buy a weeks worth of food at a time, I buy larger containers if they’re cheaper by volume.

    Rice, ramen(buckwheat), whole wheat bread, oatmeal, spaghetti, eggs, turkey lunchmeat, hot dogs, tuna, frozen vegetables, bananas/apples, peanut butter/jelly, MSG free bullion, various spices and cooking oils, cheese and milk occasionally. Drinking lots of water. I can understand how someone who exercises a lot would have trouble on a diet like that but I weigh about 160lbs (at 6′). Drinking a lot of water and no sweets, I think, minimizes the desire to snack.

    Oh and one more thing, I drink a LOT of tea. White, green, earl grey even plain black. The key is to think about the food buying for the long run, not one week at a time. Build up a stock and rotate which things you buy every week.

  29. badgeman46 says:

    easy! I spend between 75 and 100 bucks on groceries a month. And that is all quality home cooking right there. No skimping, no ramen noodles. I think most people can’t do it because they load up on premade food, and things that are ordinarily “free” like bottled water.

  30. MrDo says:

    Since when is it the Governments role to feed you?

  31. BuddhaLite says:

    $25 is about $10 more than I can get away with spending. Here’s a pic of one of my recent trips to a produce market:

    That’s $7 worth of fruits and veggies. In the pic is a head of lettuce, cabbage, 1 mango, 3 red peppers, 3 red onions and lots of tomatoes and potatoes. Bulk rice at an Indian or Chinese market is dirt cheap. Meat can be found cheap at a bodega and bulk oatmeal for breakfast is also dirt cheap. Yes somethings in bulk put you over your budget for the week but it also puts you under it for many weeks to follow.

  32. BuddhaLite says:

    Bah missing pic is here:

    [farm3.static.flickr.com]

  33. mikesfree says:

    the concentration / grouchy guy may be slightly hypoglycemic.

  34. MrDo says:

    also, when will people wake the fuck up and realize that “organic” is a scam.

    • LintySoul says:

      @MrDo:
      Organic, as in the restriction of synthetic herbicides,pesticides, and fertilizers is not a scam. Many synthetics are very poisonous and harm many living creatures as well as pollute the ground water and can kill all beneficial bacteria in farming soil.
      Also, Farm workers, those who feed us all, deserve to have their life valued more. Alot of the chemicals used in ‘conventional’ farming cause severe skin reactions and cancer.
      Perhaps you might better direct your outrage at the fact that it is currently hard to afford good, clean, natural foods, a right that we all have.
      What has happened to create a society that can only afford cheap, mass produced, and overly processed food stuffs?

    • The_IT_Crone says:

      @MrDo: But how else will they feel special?! :)

  35. ShadowFalls says:

    Sure you can do it, as long as you value having things like diabetes and high blood pressure.

  36. I see a lot of people making the point that you CAN go to the grocery store, spend $25 or less, and not starve for a week. You’re absolutely right, it is possible, but it’s not healthy. Most of the examples I’ve seen others give have been starch heavy and lacking in protein. I’m not talking about organic foods, I’m talking about a balanced diet including all four food groups. $25 a week on food is enough to get by (I know, I’ve done it), but it’s not enough to thrive. It’s not enough to feel healthy.

    • BuddhaLite says:

      @What The Geek:

      According to the USDA the amount of protein an average person needs is 70g/day. Beans, tofu, soy products, whey and yes even some meat can be dirt cheap.

    • Sarah of Get Cooking says:

      @What The Geek:
      Unfortunately, many people who have to live on $25 don’t also have time to be preparing the food themselves. In many lower income neighborhoods, produce is more expensive than say, the dollar menu at McDonald’s (which is also usually more convenient). That type of diet IS unhealthy.

      That said, in some neighborhoods it’s totally possible to eat have a well-rounded diet cheaply. In urban areas, and especially low-income areas where so many people with food-stamps live, real food has been pushed out by processed fast-food. The time-cost for cooking is also too high if you have to work long hours.

      So basically, for poorer people, the chances of having a healthy diet on this amount of money are low. Someone who simply chooses to be frugal could probably spend more time and put more thought into what they buy, prepare and eat, which are several more luxuries than those on food stamps can usually afford.

  37. Tank says:

    If you buy ingredients instead of prepared foods, you can eat really well on the cheap. My wife and I frequently eat steak & shrimp for dinner, with a vegetable and potato for about $8 total meal.

  38. ehhh says:

    It’s very doable (depending on where you live) and healthy, but it gets boring. A bag of rice goes a long way for one person, then add vegetables, tofu, some eggs, fruit, and treat yourself to meat once in a while.

    I went through my last year of college this way and still had money left for a 6 pack of good beer each week.

  39. The_IT_Crone says:

    Are you kidding? It’s easy. I spend about $20 a week, and eat VERY healthy. You just have to cut out junk food and anything w/o nutritional value, and use coupons and sales liberally. It helps to make LARGE meals (even though I’m single) and then freeze/chill the rest for later.

  40. Xerloq says:

    I think the $25 is for one person. My family of four routinely gets by on $50 to $75 a week in groceries (including diapers and baby food).

    I echo the rice, beans, lentils, and eggs. Get some cheap produce and cheese to cover the four food groups.

    Organic soda? pre-packaged lunch meat? BOTTLED WATER? Get over it and get back to basics.

  41. graceless says:

    I haven’t hear anybody talk about canned tuna, which is cheap. There’s also canned salmon, and this stuff goes on sale pretty regularly. If you’re one person, you can do this, harder with a family though.

    BTW, if you live in an expensive area, NYC for instance, maybe you can have a higher standard of living in a place less expensive… just a thought.

    • HogwartsAlum says:

      @graceless:
      Tuna is great. But I bought some recently and instead of being “chunked,” like the label said, it was shredded. I tried two different brands (name brands, but they were on sale) and got the same.

      When I put the Miracle Whip on it to make tuna salad, it turned to mush. So gross I couldn’t eat it. It looked pre-chewed. It’s a waste of money when they do that. They’re messing with the food!

      Lentils, like someone else said, are great. Make the Jiffy cornbread ($1 a box, sometimes less) to go with them. YUM!

    • dry-roasted-peanuts says:

      @graceless: Tuna is awesome. $.50 to $.75 a can can’t be beat. Throw a can in with some steamed cauliflower and broccoli and a nice cheese sauce and a side of couscous and you’ve got a good, cheap meal.

      • Shallots says:

        I do $25/week in a middling-to-bad neighborhood in Brooklyn. We have access to several supermarkets via the subway or plain ol’ walking. Food is pretty reasonably priced here compared to a lot of other cities, surprisingly.

    • sawzy says:

      @graceless: you gotta be careful with the tuna! for awhile i was eating a can every day (tuna helper is sooo good!) until my mom told me a story of a woman who got mercury poisoning doing that. all her hair fell out.

      yes, all tuna has some mercury in it and if you read stuff online they recommend you don’t eat more than like 2 cans a week. the industry has been fighting measures to put warning labels on the cans.

      that is why i only eat salmon now.

      • Clobberella says:

        @sawzy: The two can per week recommendation is generally just for pregnant women. All fish/shellfish have mercury in them, including salmon. The EPA & FDA recommend that you eat a variety of fish, so while eating tuna every single day is probably not the best idea, neither is eating salmon or any other type every single day. The main thing is to avoid large carniverous fish like shark & swordfish.

        [www.cfsan.fda.gov]

    • maztec says:

      @graceless: Industry canned tuna is stupendously expensive and of crappy quality. Home canned is high quality and significantly cheaper. I can my own tuna every three years (about 100lbs and it lasts the three years) and the cost is regularly 1/4th the cost by volume (including my time! but it does take one day) as compared to buying it in the stores. And the quality is significantly better.

      On the other hand, if you do not have canning equipment, your up front cost may be higher and have to be compensated for.

  42. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    If you don’t think you can get by on only $25 a week, just try NOT eating out and cooking all your meals. You’ll save an assload just by doing that.

  43. opsomath says:

    Black beans, 2lbs, $1.50
    Brown rice, 2lbs, $1.50
    Cheddar cheese, 1lb, $2.00
    1gal milk, $4
    5lb flour, $3
    18 eggs, $3.00
    Average cost of baking powder, salt, sugar, butter, vinegar; $1.00
    3lbs sweet potatoes, $2.50
    3lbs regular potatoes, $2.00
    1 bottle two buck chuck red wine (Shiraz), $3.00
    1 whole frying chicken, $1.25
    1/2 gal orange or grapefruit juice, from conc. $1.50
    1 head spinach from produce aisle, $1.50

    Total $24.75

    Save yer quarters for a couple of months and buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks. :)

    I’m going to try this next week and see how I do. All prices are based on what I recall from local grocery shopping. I think I can make the chicken into at least three meals what with making a soup out of the bones. I make no apologies for the bottle of wine; it’s cheap and red wine is good for you in moderation.

    OH GOD COFFEE! I forgot coffee!

    Okay, drop the eggs, buy a thing of oatmeal for $1 and a pound of Publix store brand coffee for $2. Done deal.

    • @opsomath: I don’t know where you’re getting a whole chicken for $1.25 – fill me in on where you shop. Same goes for the cheddar. I’ve never seen it @ $2/lb in any of the grocery stores or delis near me. Also the cooking ingredients you listed for a dollar each all vary between $1 and $5 depending on quantity. Some of your prices seem a little off, but most seem fairly on target. I’m curious to see how you do on that grocery list. If you do try it, I’d be curious to know your total, what the meal yield is, and how you feel after a week with just those foods.

      • opsomath says:

        @What The Geek:

        The chicken is a small fryer. Now that I think of it, that is a bit low for what amounts to a two and a half pound bird, but it shouldn’t be more than a couple of dollars. I’ll check next time I’m in the store.

        I live in north Georgia, which is chicken central. In other areas, other meats are probably relatively cheaper.

        I’ve tried to avoid really ridiculous sales like Publix’s one-cent deals, but assume I’m buying items at places where they are reliably on sale and keeping a weather eye towards the local supermarket ads. Two bucks a pound for cheese is low but findable, two-fifty closer to the average.

        I think if you stuck with this shopping list, you could make it a one-stop shopping trip (not looking for sales or bargains) for maybe five dollars more.

  44. polyeaster says:

    I’m single, eat on approximately $20/week…I buy fresh veggies and fruits, milk, bread, and no packaged items.

    • crashfrog says:

      @polyeaster: Either bullshit or you live on a farm. There’s no fracking way you’re getting a week’s worth of fresh produce for $20 a week.

      • mushroom104 says:

        @crashfrog: You can if you buy them at the local farmer’s market. You’d be surprised how much food you can get for $20.00 at a farmer’s market. At least where I live anyway.

  45. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    Assuming the cost to actually get to where you can purchase groceries is not included in the $25… nor is the cost of preparing the meal… It can be done.

    I have always been for years a “from scratch cook”. My wife thinks I am nuts most of the time (for other reasons beyond this as do some of the readers of consumerist… but I digress)… She thinks I am nuts because it only costs $7 to buy a factory made freezer pizza and pop it into the oven. While I will start the dough in the morning, roll it out and make pizza from scratch using the best ingredients in the kitchen. Out of pocket cost is a fraction of delivered or freezer pizza. Assuming my time is free and I know for the most part, what is in it, no melamine powder, no reprocessed rotten fish oil, just good quality ingredients.

    I bought a whole chicken last Sunday carved it up raw, and it gave us meat for dinner and Monday lunches, as well as a pot of soup/stew for Monday night dinner.

    I mention these examples because the knowledge and skills needed to do this are the same as are needed to buy frugally and eat regally.

    BUT, this knowledge and these skills are being lost. Our society doesn’t value them. Our mothers were chastised for being home makers, our sisters were socialized to want to be men. Boys were labeled sissies for wanting to learn these skills.

    My grandmother started me cooking when I was a young boy teaching me how to make souffle. I loved it. I have included my kids in the preparation of meals. They help with cooking and can readily make quality meals from basic ingredients.

    So why is it that society doesn’t value these skills? Because the less real knowledge and functional skills we have the more we rely on others to do for us. The others in this picture are corporations; McDonalds, Wendys, and the really big corporations like Conagra. It is in their best corporate interest to make us as absolutely dependent on them as possible. And, the products they have developed for us to consume don’t come from the pretty show kitchens in their advertisements, but from industrial chemical plants and industrial farms/feedlots. Wow I am on a rant!

    Anyway, to get back on topic, we need to value the skills and knowledge that enables us to do for ourselves. We need to be able to do for ourselves. No, I am not suggesting that you grow all your own food, butchering as needed and preserving, etc. Although, that would be interesting. Nor am I suggesting you make all your meals from scratch, as eating prepared food does have some convenience as do restaurants.

    What I am saying is we need to ensure we have the knowledge and skills to do these basic things for ourselves so that we can do it if, or in light of the current economy, when needed.

    PS anyone who hasn’t read Fast Food Nation should visit their local library and correct this oversight.

    • @GreatWhiteNorth: I agree about the skills, and I agree about preparing everything from scratch. I’m a little iffy on $25 a week being enough to eat healthy, and, mostly, I’d like to know where you find the time to cook like that. Don’t get me wrong – like I said, I like cooking from scratch – I just don’t have the time to do it as often as I’d like. Usually it’s an activity reserved for the weekends, and that doesn’t solve M-F’s dining needs.

    • crashfrog says:

      @GreatWhiteNorth: I bought a whole chicken last Sunday carved it up raw, and it gave us meat for dinner and Monday lunches, as well as a pot of soup/stew for Monday night dinner.

      Whole raw chicken at the mega-mart near me: 5.99 or so.
      Whole pre-roasted rotisserie chicken at same mega-mart: 3.99 with coupon. Pre-injected, of course, with salt water and various preservatives.

      I can’t, for the life of me, figure out how to make “from-scratch” cooking make financial sense. I’ve hand-made pizzas, too, and let me tell you, it costs about double in materials what it would cost to buy a cardboard frozen pizza. Just the tomatoes for the sauce would cost ten times what it would cost to get sauce from a can (and I only need to use half the can.)

      And it’s not like I live in Hawaii, or downtown Manhattan. I live in Nebraska. You’d think at least beef would be cheap out here. No dice.

      • dry-roasted-peanuts says:

        @crashfrog: It’s largely the versatility and variety of buying ingredients as opposed to items.

        For example. I wanted some cookies this weekend. I went to the store and bought 5 lbs of flour ($2), 2 lb of brown sugar ($2), 2 lbs of sugar ($2), 1 lb of butter ($1), a dozen eggs ($2) and a jar of peanut butter ($4). So, that’s $13 in ingredients for something I could buy for $3-$4 (my recipe made 30 cookies). However, I still have enough of the ingredients to make 2 more batches before I run out of any 1 ingredient. So now, that $13 made 90 cookies which would cost $9-12 if I was just buying them pre-made, plus, I’ve still got plenty of flour, sugar, butter and eggs remaining.

      • cerbie says:

        @crashfrog: …and that’s why we can’t get anywhere. We’re not all able to buy the same stuff for the same price. I only get tomatoes at the farmer’s market, FI, but what if that’s not cheaper where you are ($3-5/lb v. $1-2/lb, here)? I can stuff myself with calories cheaper than I can eat decent food.

        Also, I want some of whatever you guys are smoking that let’s you buy such cheap cheese. I don’t believe you guys, plain and simple.

        If I lived and worked right near one of the good local Asian grocers (I’m including Indian, here), I could do $25 per week. Otherwise, it ain’t happenin’.

    • @GreatWhiteNorth: homemade pizza is the best! I tried the 7$ grocery store stuff..tastes like crap.

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      @GreatWhiteNorth: I have several friends who are my age (early 30s) and completely unable to cook. Following a recipe terrifies them and they all complain that it’s ‘toooo harrrrrd!’ when I suggest that they make something as simple as beans and rice from scratch rather than buying a beans and rice ‘mix’ in a box (a thing I never knew existed until recently).

      They just never learned to cook, either having been raised by people who couldn’t cook or having been spoiled by their parents and not taught any valuable life skills at all. Having been put in charge of the kitchen at age nine myself, it’s really beyond me how anyone can get to adulthood surviving on canned goods, takeout and instant noodles.

      I’ve managed to quash the urge to smack them, and possibly their parents, with a copy of ‘The Joy of Cooking’ and instead, we have a dinner party/cooking class a few times every month. So far, one of them has progressed over the past year from being unable to make pasta on her own to making cakes from scratch. She calls me every time she cooks something new to tell me all about it and I’m so proud that the skill-sharing worked!

  46. DoktorGoku says:

    Sorry, but this is, well, wrong.

    Until very, very recently, I was eating with $20-25/week, easily.

    Reading through some of those descriptions is insane- cereal? Bottled Water? NO! Those are not worth the expense- your menu is dictated by Buy One get One Free sales, you stock up when you can, and you don’t complain about eating the same thing over and over. Yeah, it may not be what many Starbucks-drinking, Evian types are used to, but it’s very doable, and it’s kind of insulting to imply otherwise.

  47. cronomorph says:

    I’ve done this, and it’s not that hard for me as a single guy.

    3 bucks for a bag of beans, 3 bucks for a bag of rice means dinner for a week in the crockpot.

    2 bucks for Publix bread, 3 bucks for lunch meat, 3 bucks for cheese, and I have lunch for the week.

    5 cans of oranges for .63 cents = 3.15 and I have a serving of fruit for lunch and dinner.

    That’s under 18 bucks. That’s 7 bucks left over for vitamins to provide balance.

  48. strathmeyer says:

    Bottled water, bag of cheese, box of deli sandwiches? Did they get anyone to try who is actually able to correctly provide food for themself?

  49. Ayo says:

    2 words… ramen. noodles.

  50. MaelstromRider says:

    Back in the early 90′s I used to feed 2 adults on $11.00 a week. We ate a lot of mac & cheese, PB&J, pasta & rice. Ground beef was the meat of choice and one pound needed to last all week. Was it doable? Yes. Healthy? No way. Did we get fat? Yes. Not much room for fruits and veggies on that kind of budget, although they were purchased whenever there were special sales.

    Could I do that now on $25/week per adult? No way. Food is much more expensive and now that I’m older and have health problems, eating properly isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.

  51. Gopher bond says:

    loaf of bread, peanut butter, jelly and/or fluff.

    I have before and I believe I could again eat 3 peanut butter and jelly sandwhiches a day.

  52. Outrun1986 says:

    I just couldn’t pull this off in my area (in a healthy way), yes I probably could with coupons, loss leaders, a car and an internet connection. Unfortunately many of the poor here do not have a car and an internet connection. Couponing also requires a lot of time and some stocking up to get ahead, which means you must put more money into it some months than others. You need the internet connection to hunt for deals and to print coupons (also factor in the cost of a printer and ink). This also assumes you already own a computer and its not going to break down anytime soon, same with the car, you have to put gas into it and assume its reliable. You need the car to drive to the stores to get the deals. If your going on a bus you will have to factor in bus fare and the fact that you will only be able to bring home what you can carry.

    Sure you could eat off 25$ a month, but you would probably gain weight. Gaining weight has health risks that can cost you more money in the long run (been discussed on this blog many times). It also takes much longer to lose weight than it does to gain it. Ramen isn’t healthy, if your eating it every day you will suffer. Also if your not eating properly that can mean increased trips to the doctor and illnesses which would likely affect your ability to make money and cost you more because if your not eating the right foods you tend to get sick more which means more trips to the doctor and medicine to pay for. I’ve experienced this, when I was eating a crap diet I would get sick at least once or twice a year during winter. Now that I am eating better and healthier I don’t get sick as much.

  53. Blitzgal says:

    I can and have survived on less than $25 per week, so I really don’t feel the need to experiment again. That was an extremely unhappy period of my life.

    Also, when you get paid every other week you usually don’t have the luxury of going to the grocery store every few days to buy fresh produce. You’re waiting for your next paycheck. So you end up buying non-perishables. And no, ramen noodles are NOT nutritious. They also have an obscene amount of sodium.

    That said, now that I’m financially comfortable enough to not worry about my food budget, I still only spend around sixty dollars per week on groceries and order lunch at work once a week.

    • Blitzgal says:

      @Blitzgal: I should’ve added, if your rent equals one of the two paychecks you receive a month, you have even less wiggle room to buy fresh food. Ugh, I so don’t miss those days…

  54. Boulderite says:

    Check the Coupon and Grocery section at GottaDeal.com There are people on there who save a lot of money.

  55. rten says:

    I live near Allentown PA and have successfully lived off $25 a week for 10 years, by choice. I see a lot of people “needing” quick easy food because of how they weight out cost/time.

    One hour extra work = Higheer priced FAST EASY meal
    OR
    Come home on time = Good meal at reasonable cost

    I make food for 3 servings [meals] and eat leftovers. Understanding the difference between want and need is key as well.

    Learn what each kind of store offers
    =Farmers Market – great food in the last 1-2 hours it’s open but less choice (if you are picky you are screwed)
    =Chain Grocery – only uses BOGOs (stock up)
    =ALDI – consistent selection but generic stigma (get over it)

    The bottled water and organic soda, bury yourself in debt and self delight… That’s a want, but never a need.

  56. KStrike155 says:

    Has anybody else found it strange that there are people in here talking about how they only spend $20 a week on food, yet they are commenting on a website, on the internet, from a computer?

    I’m not trying to be an asshole, just saying… where are you getting the time/money to be able to do this if you can only spend $80/month on food?

    If you’re at work you should be working harder, trying to get more tips or get a promotion. If you’re in a library, you should be scouring newspapers and classified ads online as much as possible trying to get a job. If you’re at home, you should be ashamed of yourself. Why do you have a computer and internet access when you can barely feed yourself/your family?

    Now I’m not saying that it’s not possible to feed yourself on $25 a week. It certainly is. Is it healthy? Highly doubtful. Some of you said it yourself: being super-skinny, or gaining lots of weight.

    Again, I’m not trying to offend anyone, I’m just curious. I am completely sympathetic towards those in need, and I admire those able to live in such a way.

    The woman that bought a pack of water is an idiot, as well as the woman buying fresh fruit and milk.

    I also agree with some that have said the buying individual ingredients is just NOT cost effective a lot of the time. I could buy a 5 pound bag of frozen chicken tenderloins for around $5. I’m convinced that there is more usable meat in there than a whole chicken.

    @Oranges w/ Cheese: My girlfriend and I spend around $450/month on food. We buy only store-brand items, and this does not include eating out (separate budget for that). We shop at the cheapest supermarket around. Granted we buy steak, chicken, and all sorts of other things, but it’s not as easy as “just try NOT eating out”.

    And my last comment is that I think a lot of this depends on the area that you live in, too. Some areas this may just be literally impossible.

    • katylostherart says:

      @KStrike155: just remember, if you’re poor, the things that aren’t necessity but are still considered the possessions of average americans aren’t your right to have.

      but skipping over that…

      “I’m convinced that there is more usable meat in there than a whole chicken.” it is cheaper per pound in a lot places to buy a whole chicken and THROW OUT everything but the breast than it is to buy just chicken breasts. meaning, if you translate the cost of a whole chicken and divide it by pound of chicken breast you have left it usually ends up cheaper than the whole chicken breast sold on its own.

      i live in a really expensive area, if two people spend $450/mo on groceries you’re overpaying for quality you only think you’re getting.

      • KStrike155 says:

        @katylostherart: Expensive is very subjective. I could say I live in a very expensive area, too, considering you can’t come close to purchasing the Thrifty Food Plan in my area.

        [c-snap.org]

        And no, I’m not overpaying, and it’s not quality, nor do I have any perceiving quality of this store’s product. It’s crap. Like I said, this is the cheapest store around.

        • katylostherart says:

          @KStrike155: i live in fairfield county, connecticut. it’s really just behind nyc and san francisco. greenwich, new canaan, darien, stamford. britney spears apparently was shopping around here the other day. trust me, if it’s absurdly expensive and completely unnecessary, they sell it here because EVERYONE should have one (or something).

          unless you live in nyc or san francisco, i doubt you live in a more expensive area than i do. it’s not subjective in this case. it’s just insane. :(

          • KStrike155 says:

            @katylostherart: I actually used to live in Fairfield County. It’s one of the richest counties in the US. I was just down there this weekend, in the New Milford area, and it was certainly cheaper at Big-Y than we have in the Boston area. I can see how if you live in Darien or New Canaan you could have a tough time, though, but Stamford is nowhere near as expensive as those two. I used to work in Greenwich and it was ridiculous the kinds of cars people were driving.

    • opsomath says:

      @KStrike155:

      I find it really weird that you strike a tone of moral reproof towards people who don’t spend a lot of money on food. I can think of a lot of reasons why people might need, or merely want, to spend this little on food.

      I’m a graduate student who doesn’t have a lot of free cash to spend thanks to a long gas-guzzling commute, a mortgage I’m trying to pay down faster than the minimum because I hate debt, and because my wife and I live almost entirely off my stipend and save her earnings to pay off her student debt – which she accumulated in order to go to engineering school.

      We do not live off $50/week between the two of us, more like $75, but we are aware of where the extra money goes and cut it down when in a tight spot. Furthermore, our ability to do this adds a lot to our feeling of financial security, since our economy is currently going straight to Hell.

      Someone might have been hit with unexpected medical bills, or legal fees, or the loss of a vehicle, or other large unpredictable financial burden. They might choose to tighten their budget a lot rather than take on long-term debt. In an ideal world, people would have savings for such an eventuality, but many do not. Someone may simply be doing it because they can, planning to save the extra money for an unpaid internship, or a dream trip, or a gift. Said person might be on the Internet because they can get it free at school, rather than going out or watching cable.

      Executive summary: you don’t know why someone might be doing this, so why don’t you give them props for being thrifty rather than unaccountably judgmental?

      • katylostherart says:

        @opsomath: i think i love you. want a second wife?

      • KStrike155 says:

        @opsomath: You have a good point. I can definitely see why someone might want to be thrifty, but I don’t see why they would want to do so to the point where their health suffers. If you’ve been hit with “unexpected bills” don’t you think one of the first things to go would be the computer?

        Tightening your budget is one thing, but if you think it’s healthy or smart for someone to be spending so little on food that they are not getting the proper nutrition they need, just so they can go on their “dream vacation” or “buy a gift,” you’re in for a big surprise.

        Trust me, I know what it’s like to live on a budget. I went to engineering school, too. But, more than anything, my health and that of my loved ones come before “trying to paying down debt” because you just don’t like it, or “going on a dream vacation,” or the worst reason of all “just because they can.”

        And no, I don’t know why someone might be doing this, which is why I asked. And I also stated numerous times that I was NOT trying to be an asshole, and I was just curious.

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      @KStrike155: I just love saving money, personally. Keeping my grocery bill low makes me happy, just as keeping my fuel bill low, clothing bill low and electric bill low all make me equally happy. I don’t live economically because I’m poor; I live nicely without having to work myself to bits to pay for it because I like to get the most for my money. Internet access is a business expense for me, but even if it weren’t I would have enough left over every month to allow for the cost. As much as I save in other areas, I usually end up with plenty left over from my monthly budget.

      As enjoyable as it might be for you to sit back and pass judgment on everyone else on the internet, do try to remember that living economically, whether by choice or not, while at the same time allowing oneself to indulge in the occasional luxury does not mean a person is morally lacking.

      • KStrike155 says:

        @JulesNoctambule: I never said that. What I did say, and what I think people are missing, is that:

        I don’t think it is necessary to live on such a stringent budget that it is detrimental to your health, or anyone else’s. If you are in this position, it is not smart to be spending your money on a computer and internet access.

        Maybe I didn’t make this clear enough in my first post (that I was only talking about people that really can’t afford more than $25 a month, rather than just not spending it).

        I’m not passing judgment on anyone, only those people putting themselves and their family in danger for no good reason. I am also not judging anybody that lives economically, whether by choice or not, only those that, again, are putting their health at risk because of it.

        I WOULD LIKE TO APOLOGIZE for coming off in a way that people thought I did. As I stated, even in my very first post, it was NOT meant to be like that. But the powers of the internet have overcome that somehow, and always do.

        IN SUMMARY OF THIS ENTIRE CONVERSATION:

        If you can eat healthily on $25, none of what I’ve said matters. If you don’t eat healthily on $25, and can afford more, then why are you not eating better? You’re ruining your body. If you don’t eat healthily and cannot afford more, but you have a computer and internet access, I think it’s time to rethink your priorities. If you don’t eat healthily and cannot afford more, but you’re doing everything you possibly can to get ahead, then great work, and keep it up! You’ll get there!

        • opsomath says:

          @KStrike155: Wow, sorry this conversation went all “INTERNET ARGUMENT!”. You make a good point, and I’ve definitely seen people living on that kind of food budget who didn’t have to, and who weren’t being healthy; these people are called “college students who want to buy beer.” My roommates lived off frozen pizza and beer, in fact, most weeks, except when I took pity on them and made them eggs in the morning. :)

          I do think it’s practical to eat healthily for that kind of budget, just not fancy. A couple posts up is my suggested grocery list.

  57. katylostherart says:

    i already do this because it’s difficult to afford more. milk, eggs, lettuce and lots of 2 for 1 sales and meat that gets frozen. i think people who spend more on that per person in their family are generally not worried about what their grocery bill is. if they are worried and they spend more than that per person, they’re not very good at bargain hunting.

  58. katylostherart says:

    also foodbanks can give you staples if you don’t mind lots of rice, bread and powdered milk. hell you can even make pretty tasty crunchy bread out of a box of cornflakes and some flour.

  59. floydianslip6 says:

    Buying directly from the farm would make this challenge easy and healthy, possibly even organic. $25/week at a mainstream or fashionable grocer is ludicrous.

  60. katylostherart says:

    “We between 2 coupons we had, a brand deal, and a store discount we actually got 6 boxes of cereal for free! However, at the store, when we had to stay away from our organic, whole grain, carbonated fruit juice all natural soda, and anything at all convenient the challenge began to be less of game and sunk in for real.”

    i like this part, where she had to stay away from juice and soda. and the organic thing. if you’re buying juice and soda before your produce and meat you’ve got your nutritional priorities messed up. and for the organic kick, not eating will kill you quicker than not eating organic.

  61. Berz says:

    Its doable. I eat off of 20-30 each week as a single person. Work lunches usually consist of salads, or turkey sandwiches and for dinners i will usually cook 1-2 meals a weak, between that and leftovers it will cover all meals (i dont eat breakfast, I dont get hungry in the mornings).

    But if you throw in beer then that total goes out the window……..

  62. ZenMasterKel says:

    Shop at Wal Mart and he pasta and sauce. $25 per week is definitely doable.

  63. fargle says:

    Agreed with what others are saying: I find myself almost completely in agreement with Democratic principles of helping others out, but doesn’t a challenge like this come with the basic assumption that government should be responsible for 100% of some people’s food costs?

    On the face of it, I’m not sure we (the global we) want to go there without some serious discussion. I think any reasonable person would likely agree that, absent extraordinary circumstances, it’s probably not a good assumption to be making.

    I can tell you that my family of four, in an expensive part of Denver, can, with some small cutbacks and prudent shopping, survive decently without a lot of effort on $200 for a two-week period, because we’ve done it before. I’m not saying it would be an idyllic orgy of consumption, but it also doesn’t take the huge levels of effort described in this article.

    Now, as for a single person surviving on $25 a week, no doubt – I don’t see that as possible long-term.

    • katylostherart says:

      @fargle: “but doesn’t a challenge like this come with the basic assumption that government should be responsible for 100% of some people’s food costs?”

      food is one of those things you need to get or you die. people riot over lack of food. people steal and kill for food. if you work full time but can’t make ends meet, or work two jobs and can’t work ends meet and the government you’re paying into doesn’t pick up the slack you’re trying to pick up yourself, who else should?

      if we make taxes voluntary and let everyone fend for their own interests then i think a sound argument for the gov’t not picking up the tab is ok. but if i have to give them my money, i want something back, especially if it’s a basic right that’s needed for survival.

    • crashfrog says:

      @fargle: I think any reasonable person would likely agree that, absent extraordinary circumstances, it’s probably not a good assumption to be making.

      I disagree. I don’t think a human being’s survival should be completely dependent on another person valuing their labor. Not everyone can work, for one thing, and not everybody is good at something that another person wants to pay them for. Not everything we value in society is something we put a price tag on, either.

      You shouldn’t have to work to eat. That’s absurd. You shouldn’t be dependent on others in that way. You should probably have to work if you want nice food, or nice things, or a nice place to live, but a society that offers only the choice of labor or starvation is not a society I want to be a part of.

  64. Nofsdad says:

    Being a senior citizen on a tiny little SS stipend (less than $800 monthly) I pretty much do this every week. My diet is probably a lot higher in carbs and lower in protein than it should be but that’s my fault because I’m lazy and rely too much of packaged meals. I’m generally able to keep my grocery bill right around the $100 monthly limit I’ve set for myself and even have a treat now and again.

    I suspect that there are a lot of folks out there in the same boat I am who could teach you plenty about shopping for groceries on a REAL budget.

  65. incognit000 says:

    I spend about $100 on groceries each month, but I do /not/ eat healthy.

    I imagine that learning how to cook is key, since you can save a lot by buying only raw ingredients.

  66. MoreFunThanToast says:

    It’s definitely do-able, just not all that healthy. I’m trying to keep my weekly grocery purchase down to around $25($50 a week but I split with roommate).

    Ramen, rice, spam, egg are very affordable, whereas veggies are fruits are pricier and more perishable. I end up buying broccoli very often because they last longer in the fridge and I love them.

    Now days I bring my own lunch and rarely eats out.
    Hope I can pay off my debt soon :)

  67. Xay says:

    Angel Food Ministries is a godsend for people who are trying to find cheaper alternatives for nutritious food. I use them to supplement my regular grocery shopping as their meat offerings are well below grocery store prices. They take cash, money orders, and food stamps and have no eligibility requirements.

    [www.angelfoodministries.com]

  68. LintySoul says:

    I tried living off of $26.50 a week in food stamps, no good. This was the case for 8 months as I struggled with a low paying job, bills, a family emergency where I had to care for a sibling,and eventual unemployment. I ended up losing about 20 pounds off an already petite frame.
    But I didn’t starve to death. How did I do it?
    I supplemented my Food Stamps with dumpster diving, and charity food boxes loaded with recalled chili and mysterious bread products. The crappiest part was not being able to eat fresh produce as much as one should. Also you can’t buy medicine or vitamins with Food Stamps. When I recieved my “stimulus check” I used it to pay off past due rent, turn my phone back on, and get a 25 pound bag of brown rice.
    The mental effects of hunger are pretty horrendous as well. There was a whole lot of anger, jealously, and food hoarding tendencies. Depression and mental fogginess were huge, and no one wants to hire a sickly starving waif, so it is almost like a snake eating its own tail scenario. Our local job market is pretty crappy as well. Good luck finding a job in small town Oregon. You too may find yourself gathering bottles and cans to get money for cheap beer, or venturing into hard drugs, because reality sucks.
    To see that this is the way many Americans live, (most of them women, children, and veterans) is so surreal and sad. To hear people spout negatives towards the impoverished is also sad. Many people are one or two paychecks away from being hungry and/or homeless.
    After trying to live off $30 a week, they should also try being homeless for a month.

  69. anonymouscoworker says:

    I thought it prudent to point some people in the direction of some research on Food Security.

    It’s not just about having enough nutrition.

  70. GyroMight says:

    Let me tell you a cheap meal: Jambalaya. Get the mix from Aldi for $2 and the sausage for $2 and I can get 4 meals out of that (2 dinner and 2 lunches).

    God Bless Aldi.

  71. HRHKingFridayXX says:

    I’m in a field somewhat related to the financial industry. Needless to say, I’m scared shitless. So what I’m doing is eating every last leftover gorcery (I used to over grocery shop like it was my job), and then start up on 20-25 bucks a week. I still want to be healthy, so I’m going to get most of my food from the bulk bins at whole foods and see if that’s workable. Wish me luck!

  72. OletheaEurystheus says:

    This is hard for me to say, As it is now with my wife we survive on 200 a month from the warehouse stores. Sure its a lot of frozen veggies, but decent cuts of meat, and a lot of my lunches are soups I make for the two of us.

    IF I had to cut back I know I could, but it would be hard.

  73. Moosehawk says:

    It’s called college. Take that challenge to another step and try to do $25 over 2 weeks. I’ve done it for the past 3 months and I’m still swimming in debt.

    My grocery list every 2 weeks consists of:
    Bread, Peanut Butter, best pop deals, ramen, and one giant box of frozen something. I usually switch it up between chicken nuggets and taquitos/mini tacos.

  74. maztec says:

    Ramen & Eggs!

  75. RandomHookup says:

    One way to make this work is to spend more time at the grocery store looking for bargains. Check out the clearance bins — stuff for 70-90% off regular price. Most of the stuff is fine (make sure the cans aren’t heavily dented…one flat dent is fine). Most of the stuff is fine, it just didn’t sell or it’s a six-pack missing one soda or it’s out of season. Next week, you should find plenty of Kosher foods on clearance.

  76. Daniels says:

    You can’t buy a case of bottled water and complain that $25/week isn’t enough. All people here are proving is they don’t know how to shop or eat.

    A family would be nearly impossible to feed on $25/week. A single person could get by easily. It might be boring food (1 lb of ground beef for $4 + ketchup for $2 = 4 servings meatloaf).

    Besides the fact, as someone pointed out, food stamps are supposed to be a supplement to income… not income.

  77. starbreiz says:

    I pay about $30 every two weeks for my CSA box. That plus meat, and I’m pretty set for healthy meals. But then, I’m just one person.

  78. ionerox says:

    This is why food shelves have been getting slammed lately. Donations are down, and they are seeing more and more clients- and not just people who are on food stamps or other economic support.

    People with jobs are using the food shelves more often, because they’re running out of money at the end of the pay period or month because of expensive gas, their mortgage payment got bigger, job cutbacks, or whatever. Lots of people work hard and still live on the edge of losing it all.

  79. Starphantom12 says:

    During college I would get a ride to the local grocery store maybe once a month, and I spent $35 most trips. I would get a $5 roast chicken to dismantle and freeze, noodles, rice, eggs and peanut butter for protein, big blocks of cheddar on sale, and a 9 grain whole wheat bread (two loaves, one to eat right away and one to freeze for later). Milk was cheaper a few years ago so it was easy to get some of that too.

    Sales are awesome. Coupons are awesome. The only thing I wanted was more fresh veggies (frozen went on sale often enough)- when in season I could get some, but it went bad if I didn’t eat it soon and then I’d wait another three weeks before I could get to the store again.

  80. effin says:

    I make more than $50k a year, and I’m currently living off $25/week food budget. Lots of cheap microwave meals and pasta for sure.

    I’m doing this BECAUSE OF Consumerist. The extra savings are going to pay for my wedding next year (at which point I’ll have to stop eating like a college boy).

    Still, it’s not fun and it’s not terribly healthy. And I do crave good food sometimes.

  81. DeeHaney says:

    Curious where this myth of buying fresh/whole food is cheaper than processed. Orange juice is much more expensive than name brand coca-cola which is almost always on sale in one form or another. Sunny delight cheaper than pure OJ. And even Pure OJ from concentrate cheaper than pure fresh OJ. And only pure fresh OJ really has any true nutritional benefit.

    Much easier to get by on ramen, mac&cheese, and frozen packaged meats and veggies than trying to make any of that stuff fresh. Couldn’t afford the spices to make it taste any good anyway.

    But the real point of this I think is the distinction between eating well and “getting by”.

    I can’t imagine it’s pleasant for any kid to pull a plain peanut butter sandwich out of bag for lunch when most likely surrounded by other kids puling out flashy foods in shiny packages.

    Why is it easy to point the finger at those on food stamps and insist $25 is fine so long as you shop well and cook at home when so many people would easily spend that same amount solely on Starbucks? Or easily send that amount in one night out on dinner with a couple drinks?

    People can end up on food stamps for many reasons, and given all those currently living one paycheck away from the street, those already there are hardly sick, lazy or crazy whackos.

    The disparity between the with and without seems to be the most non-nutritional element.

  82. trekwars2000 says:

    Anyone else notice the 2nd lady that bought a case of water with her $24.88 total? Why in the world would you spend (presumably) 20% of your budget on bottled water?

  83. SpitfireM1 says:

    I’m not proud to say, but my wife and I have very little money right now and we’re trying to pay down debts, so our weekly food budget is $50. That is the proposed $25 each. This budget has to include dry goods as well as actual food items, including things like toilet paper, soap, tooth paste, laundry soap, etc. It is very hard at times, but we never go hungry.

    That is $50 of our cash budget, not a handout. Ironically, even though this is all we could afford given our budget, we would not qualify to receive assistance even if we were inclined to apply.

    We watch advertisements very closely, and whatever is on sale we end up eating a lot of that for the next two weeks. We usually end up eating a lot of chicken and eggs with some beef and pork mixed in as our main protein sources.

    But, it is totally doable, and we don’t even eat as cheaply as we could if we went to eating things like spaghetti, PB&J, etc. We don’t even have a true discount grocer around like the above mentioned Aldi (Walmart is about as close as you can get here, but I refuse to shop at Walmart.)

    The situation would be a bit different with kids I suppose, but it would still be doable as kids don’t need as much food but need more dry goods. Infants would likely not be feasible with the $25 figure, but most states provide WIC for infant care for low income families.

  84. uberbucket says:

    I spend $20-$30 a week on food, what’s the big deal?

    Fresh fruit and vegetables, rice, legumes, tofu, tempeh, soymilk…Eating healthy is easy and cheap, it’s just a little bit more involved than mashing a button on the microwave.

    • Gopher bond says:

      @uberbucket: I’m thinking the problem is all the “normal” people that buy $5 lattes every morning along with a $4 muffin or something for breakfast, then go out for lunch everyday. $25 a week seems preposterous, but I’m with you, I don’t know what the big deal is about $25 a week is. It’s tight, to be sure, but not a chore unless you’re already pretty spolied.

    • crashfrog says:

      @uberbucket: Oh, come on. Soymilk? 7 dollars a carton. Tofu? 4 dollars and it’s good for 3 days, max; so you’re back at the store halfway through the week. (I don’t even know what tempeh is, but if it’s where I think it is in the grocery store, good luck finding any for under 8 dollars.)

      There’s no way in hell $20 buys you any significant portion of fresh produce unless you’re literally living on a farm. 4 out of 5 Americans live somewhere where fresh produce has to be trucked in with 4-dollar-a-gallon gasoline, and its reflected in our food prices.

      The reason that so many Americans eat Doritos and soda instead of fresh fruits and vegetables is because that’s all you can afford on 20 a month. You people who are talking about homemade, made-from-scratch meals with balanced nutrition are blowing smoke up our collective asses. Unless you live where all those ingredients come from there’s absolutely no way to make that lifestyle work for less than $60 a week.

      • cerbie says:

        @crashfrog: I think it greatly depends on where you are. I can eat lunch out few times a week and do $60. Around $40, though, I’m stuck. Going much lower would get to me to meals like Mr. Frankenstein’s, ramen, etc..

        P.S. this whole mess has got me craving some black bean soup and biscuits. There goes my canola oil stash… :)

  85. I’m sure we spend more than that now, but my wife and I would be able to get by on $25 a week (each). We have in the past when times were tough. And while it can be unhealthy, it doesn’t have to be.

    The first trick is to eat less meat. Go to the library and find a vegetarian cookbook to get some meals that have adequate protein without meat. You don’t have to go vegetarian, just get used to not eating meat at every meal. Eating less meat frees up money to buy a larger variety of other things.

    The second trick is to buy in large quantities. My most recent real-life example: My son is now old enough to eat Cheerios. We could buy the $3 box at the grocery or discount store, but a box nearly twice as big costs $4 at Costco. As long as we use the box before it goes bad, that’s a bargain.

    But a thriftier example is potatoes. A 10-pound bag costs a dollar or two more than a 2-pound bag. Buy the 10-pound bag and then come up with ways to use it.

    And finally, cook. Neither my wife nor I could call ourselves gourmet chefs by any stretch. But we’re good at finding recipes that are within the limitations of our abilities, so we can eat OK on the cheap without getting bored.

    It’s worth doing, even if times aren’t all that tough right now. We own our house and our cars outright (no car payments, no mortgage) and we’re in our early 30s. Part of the reason we’re in that position is because we spend less on food than other people at our income level.

    I agree that it’s stressful, but learning a new skill often is a bit stressful, and shopping shrewdly is a very useful skill that applies to more than just food. It can be the difference between retiring at 55 or retiring at 75.

  86. Powerlurker says:

    I remember reading an article once about HEB (a grocery chain in Texas) and how they once made a number of their execs do this exercise (I believe they just had to plan the budget, not actually eat like that for a week). One of them made a comment about how he now realized why beans and rice sell so well in their poorer markets.

  87. Invective says:

    Biggest mistakes in my life. 1st I got sick with a degenerative brain disease. (Brain disease similar to MS, but without the life expectancy.) 2nd was I got sick in Idaho.
    I’m on disability, living on Social Security disability income. I am trying to provide a life and protect my daughter from her mother. (A mother who literally beats and abuses our other daughter who has cancer.) I asked the state for some help with food and fought with them for 3 months before finally getting $65 dollars worth of Idaho Food stamps per month. That was supposed to be $55 dollars for my daughter and $10 dollars for myself, for an entire month. My ex wife, who was claiming that same daughter even though she didn’t live with her, was getting $125 dollars per month. (I told Idaho Health and Welfare about her mother embezzling state money and their answer was they couldn’t do anything about it. Same thing with Social Security money, but that’s a whole other story.) After giving us our first and only installment of $65 dollars, Idaho sent me a court summons suing me for the $65 dollars, plus an additional $495 dollars in court costs. Then, for an added bonus, I was placed into the ‘self help program’, which in short, meant they could now take me completely off their books. They weren’t done yet though. Then the state of Idaho had me placed into their ‘dead beat dads’ program. All this and my ex wife does *not* have any kids living with her. *I* am the only one with a child. Meanwhile Idaho takes about 25% from our monthly budget that was initially meant for just one. (You try living on less than a thousand a month, even in Idaho.) Idaho did it purely because it was the only way they could attach our Federal funds and collect supposed penalties for their woefully underfunded agencies. The Idaho Department of Health of Welfare even went so far as to submit false numbers and made up information to the court, I kid you not and I exaggerate not. (I won’t even go into the corruption problems in Idaho, but sufficed to say they set a new standard at all levels of government.) Meanwhile I am really sick, been in the hospital 3 times in the last few months, including last weekend and last month I had to go without food much of the month. Idaho’s food banks, local agencies are also so woefully underfunded and corrupt, that if you don’t know someone, or are related to someone, you can’t get aid. Not legal aid, not food aid and certainly not financial aid.
    I used to make great money, more than most. Now I’m doing everything in my power just to try and provide some food for my daughter and stay alive long enough to make sure she has some kind of sanctuary from her mother. (Yes, I have church too, they don’t have any money either.) I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. If it were just me, I probably would consider a kind of ‘Republican final solution’…
    THIS is what happens when government program budgets are gutted, then the politicians point their fingers at those programs and say, “See! They don’t work!”

  88. Difdi says:

    Interesting nutritional option: Buy yerba mate tea. By adding the tea to your diet plan, you can compensate for being less healthy in other areas. And it’s a LOT cheaper than multivitamin tablets.

  89. frankieman70 says:

    Wow that is nothing I grew up the oldest of 7 in my family my pop’s was the only one working making about 9.50 hour he used to give my mom $20.00 a day and all 9 of us ate daily, you see my mom made us all breakfast and then at school well we had free food for lunch there but then dinner we always had food, we never really needed anything else Fridays was McDonald’s or some fast food place if we did good in school only. I love my family for that and now I am 26 and the #1 at my company if we can do it on beans, rice and tortillas anyone can. plus it humbles you big time and makes you appreciate the small things like bigmacs on Fridays.

  90. gladiatory2k says:

    $25/week is doable. Here in Vegas one of the stores has 10 cans for $10 deals usually on Soup, spagetti sauce, pasta, you name it. You can even buy salad at $1 a bag. Put together a nice pasta meal and a salad each day, you spend 3 bucks altogether, PB&J for lunch is cheap enough on a per unit basis when you think about it, and start your day with a couple of eggs from a dozen that runs you $1.25. VARIETY however can be lacking and snacking (which really shouldn’t be your reason for being) can ALWAYS be a luxury and not an every day event.

    When I was in college, I got a small bag of rice and a beef stick. I used to fry the rice with the meat and it would be a nice meal between that and having pasta every other day, it meant that I only spent about $5 for the WEEK on food. It was important to keep any other money leftover for necessities like beer and cover charges.

  91. fever says:

    That’s some cheap steak!

  92. mom22bless says:

    I spend around 100 a week for a family of 4. grocerygame.com baby!!

  93. nerdychaz says:

    The trick is that you have to cook your food. Forget about frozen pizza and TV dinners. Say hello to about 2 hours of cooking or baking a day. To save time, double or triple a recipe and refrigerate or freeze the leftovers. Freezing is better because it lasts longer. Most of the items I buy last for about a month because buying generics in bulk is much much cheaper in the long run. think of it this way, eat to live, don’t live to eat.

  94. quackwhack says:

    My fiance and I spend about 90 for the two of us for two weeks of food in NYC. This doesn’t include spices, oil, and vinegar, which are some of our staples, but just our biweekly grocery bill. In addition to making everything from scratch, I refuse to eat unhealthy foods and eat more than the recommended daily allowance for fruits a veggies. We get a lot of bagged bulk cheap fruits or veggies. I buy a lot of individually quick frozen veggies and fruits and use them in different ways. I buy bulk frozen chicken breasts, big tubs of yogurt. We do most of our shopping at Trader Joes and plan our meals well.

    Neither of us is hungry, and both are happy and healthy. It is doable, but takes a lot of time and commitment.

  95. JustinAche says:

    Just had this discussion on my local news site. They were giving cell phones to people in section 8 and hud housing, and I commented that maybe they should put these people on $ 2.00 per day for food as well.

    [www.firstcoastnews.com]

    Here’s my comment to someone who asked how they could eat:
    “Radio84 wrote:
    fndagirl, look at total costs. I’m not even talking about buying in bulk, but if you take, say, a loaf of bread, $ 2, serves 12 per loaf (2 slices each), a jar of peanut butter, $ 4, serves 32, and a jar of jelly, $ 3, serves 45. It comes out to $0.25 a sandwich, and that’s only because you ran out of bread. You still have tons of peanut butter and jelly left over, enough for more. This is not in bulk. These are common items I have from WalMart. I’m not saying you have to eat a PB&J every meal every day, but soup can be home made for less than $0.50 a serving. McDonalds is not going to come under the $ 2.00 per day, but even if you add in cheap drink mixes (I usually just drink water though, cheap!), one person can get along fine. Especially if your a** is on welfare, you should not be eating Ruth Chris on the tax payers dime. Oh, and on average, $2 per day for 1 person is $60…with $60, I could eat like a king! Buy frozen meat, buy in bulk if you get the chance, and your unit pricing per meal goes down significantly. Give that $2 per person, and a family could eat comfortably. It’s all about frugality. Our grandparents did it in the war, and we need to learn it. Give up packaged food, you’ll eat healthier. And it’s not like I’m poor, I have a nice house, the internet, and I don’t have to eat PB&J every day (I don’t), but I could easily get along on the food stamps we pay people, it’s crazy”

  96. Jetgirly says:

    I’m cooking for one and I spend about $80 a week! However, I don’t eat out- normally only once or twice a month. I also don’t stop at Starbucks, grab chocolate bars at the gas station, etc. Groceries are expensive here- when I hear people talking about bags of potatoes for two dollars that is totally foreign to me. It would be three or four times that much here. That being said, I believe that I eat very well- less than 10% of my diet is processed foods (really, it’s more like 2-3%), I eat a VARIETY of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and I do a good job of getting the nutrients that are often missing from vegetarian diets. As well, some of the things that I buy are things that I will keep around for quite a while- bottled herbs and spices, certain cooking oils, huge quantities of frozen stuff if it’s on sale, etc.

    • Jetgirly says:

      @Jetgirly: Oh, and I probably spend, on average, $10 a month on alcohol. I’m not drinking my paycheque!

    • KStrike155 says:

      @Jetgirly: Agreed, it’s the same here for us. $475/mo for 2 people, and that’s with no eating out or any other activities. We have a separate budget for that.

      We usually do a shop of about $175-200 at the beginning of the month, then get whatever extras we need the next 3 weeks.

      It would be incredible to have $2 bags of potatoes.

  97. dynamix10 says:

    Get a job and you won’t have to worry about it

  98. sponica says:

    Before the increase in food prices, I easily fed myself on 25 dollars a week. I could easily buy milk, bread, eggs, the cereal that was on sale, the meat that was on sale, and I almost always have pasta and frozen veggies because I stock up when they are on sale. I’d even have enough leftover to buy a snack for school (cookies, crackers, pudding, etc). Now I spend about 30-31 a week, a little more when meat is on sale, splurging to stock up.

  99. I did $20 a week back in ’05

  100. emington says:

    I spend around 10$ per week on groceries. There is one of me. I shop in Chinatown.

  101. Sasha_Pie says:

    …a whole chicken, a loaf of bread, a bag of salad, a box of rice, a bag of egg noodles, a gallon of milk, a box of grapes, a 24-pack of bottled water, a box of deli turkey for sandwiches, a bag of cheese and a 30-count package of eggs.

    I have hunger pains just reading this. After three days, all they’ll have left is a dozen or so eggs and some bottled water. This person obviously has never had to spend such a small amount of money for the week. Grapes?! My boyfriend and I spend jointly $40-$50 a week and grapes NEVER fit into the budget.. sure they’re delicious, but apples are far cheaper and more filling. A box of rice?! Try getting the 20lb bag and making fried rice with sauteed onions and a little soy sauce. Pre-made salad?! A head of lettuce and some cucumbers will make 3x the amount of salad for the same price.

    It’s hard to eat well when you’re on a strict budget, but I try to keep a large rotating menu so we don’t get bored. And you have to mix in as many cheap veggies as possible. Sweet potatoes are my favorite because they’re filling and all you have to do is bake them, no seasoning or butter needed!

  102. HooFoot says:

    People who believe that it’s cheaper to eat processed, fast food than homemade nurtritious food either don’t know how to cook or aren’t very savvy when it comes to grocery shopping. My husband and I easily stay within a $50 grocery budget per week. We buy in bulk when we can, stock up when staples are on sale, and plan meals ahead so that we don’t waste food. Yes, cooking takes some time and effort. That’s why we make large batches of food and freeze it for later use; an easy, nutritious meal for when we’re too tired to cook.

    Here’s how to eat healthy for $25/week:

    Lentil soup: chicken broth, lentils, veggies of your choice (get frozen or what’s on sale in the produce department). Freeze the leftovers for lunch or nights when you don’t want to cook.

    Vegetable fried rice: Take the vegetables leftover from making last night’s lentil soup. Stir fry with some rice, a few eggs, and add some soy sauce, sesame oil, and seasonings if you have it/can afford it.

    Bean burritos: Boil some dried pinto beans with some hot peppers and onion. Either mash them up or eat them whole, whichever you prefer. Add some cheese on top if it’s on sale and wrap it in a tortilla. Make a few extra burritos, freeze, and save them for breakfast or lunch.

    Snacks? Bake a batch of pitas–you can make about 8 whole wheat, non-HFCS pitas for less than 50 cents a batch. Don’t scoff at me–baking pitas only a little planning ahead and about 20 minutes of actual prep/bake time. Make a big batch of hummus or salsa or your dip of choice, eat with your homemade pitas. Congratualations, you just made a week’s worth of nutritious, filling snack food.

    Breakfast food? Learn to love oatmeal. It’s cheap, easy to cook, nutritious, and can easily/cheaply be jazzed up in a million different ways (adding cinnamon, brown sugar, or dried fruit are my recommendations).

  103. pisseddog says:

    I could not, food in Alaska is worth more than gasoline. Course if i got a shittier job like at mcdonalds id be rollin in da food.

  104. pillow_fight_girl says:

    Oh, god – when I was single & broke living in a studio in Chicago and making about $18,000/yr I remember going to the store with $10 in my pocket for the week. I managed. I used to buy a lot of iceburg lettuce and off-brand mac & cheese.

  105. zolielo says:

    Only time that I have been able to do $28.00 for 7 days of food has been in subsidized government worker housing. It was in a very remote and fairly deadly location.

  106. golfinggiraffe says:

    $25 a week PER PERSON? HAHAHAHAHAHA!

    [www.hillbillyhousewife.com]

    Done.

  107. Mozoltov, motherfucker says:

    If you can’t survive on $25 a week for food you need help. Welcome to the last 5 years.

  108. MrFrankenstein says:

    I routinely live on much less than $25 a week.
    I eat fruit, fresh vegetables, rice cakes, and cans of fish for protein.
    Yes its boring, but its healthy, and fine for me. Americans are far used to eating the equivalent of three days worth of calories in one sitting – as shown by the obesity rates.

    Most sane, well-educated-in-terms-of-nutrition people around the world, could live (and do live) very very well on $25 worth of food a week.
    I eat a breakfast, midmorning snack, lunch, mid afternoon snack, and supper.

    plain yoghurt – around $3
    packet of rice cakes around $3
    fresh veg (cauliflower or broccoli – around $3-4
    fresh fruit (packet of apples, and/or bananas) $4
    small cans of fish – @50cents a piece x2 per day $7

    This gives me ALL the starch, protein, vitamins and nutrition that is needed to sustain a normal human adult.

    The challenge is nonsensical – obviously if you take people with no clue whatsoever about the correct foods to eat, and ask them to live on $25 a week, it’ll be endless whining and ‘oh the poor people who have to do this.’

    Meantime, the truth is, its VERY easy to do, and to end up much healthier than those around you, in the process.

    • Jetgirly says:

      @MrFrankenstein: You’re probably not going to die due to malnourishment anytime soon, but to think that your diet is healthy is deluding yourself. In order to really get “ALL the starch, protein, vitamins and nutrition is needed” to actually have optimal health (not just to remain alive) you would need to dramatically increase the variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet. A few posts earlier I talked about how much I spend on food, and that amount is partly due to the fact that on a normal day I eat bananas, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, carrots, peas, green beans, a leafy green (spinach or kale), celery, tomatoes, bell peppers and some kind of squash (as well as garlic and onions). If you’re eating two cans of tuna daily (I know you might be eating other types of fish, but this is just a “what if”) your mercury levels are probably off the map.

      • cerbie says:

        @MrFrankenstein: Not much, there. I’m not really sure if it qualifies for nutritious…

        Some of us can actually notice how much that kind of poor eating affects us on a daily basis. I’m trying to plan myself a good meal right now due to just that (IE, I’m not saying I eat wonderfully all the time, especially not the last few days).

    • whinypurist says:

      @MrFrankenstein: Caloriewise, based on USDA data, this is less than a half a weeks worth of food. Since you’re up to $40+, you might as well spend it on a better, more varied diet.

      Last year, Consumerist linked a post in the NYT re: research showing that healthy food costs more.

  109. pnut333 says:

    I have been reading Consumerist for months, and have never been compelled to reply….until now.

    Food stamps, Welfare, and similar programs are intended to be SUPPLEMENTAL, and TEMPORARY. The whole point is to HELP people buy food, not completely supply them with food.

    What disgusts me is not the 10-15% of people who genuinely need the temporary help and support, but the 80-85% of people who use these programs as a means to live, and exploit them. From this news report, Illinois is supporting the fact that people should be able to live on $25 per week, which is false, period.

  110. pnut333 says:

    One more thing to add. I see from the above posts about income limits and would like to comment as well.

    Working one 40 hour a week job at minimum wage will net $936 per week. Delivering pizzas at night and/or on weekends part time will net you just as much due to wage, tips, and mileage. That is almost $2k per month.

    I’m not saying everyone CAN do this, I know there are limitations such as single parents wihtout family support, people with disabilities, etc. Those are the people this program is intended to assist. What I am frustrated with is how few people even attempt to do this to keep afloat. To earn money takes work, period. The harder you work, typically the more you can earn. It’s not rocket science.

    By the way, I have a family member who works in Social Services, so what I am saying is not conjecture, but their experience directly with the receivers of some of these types of benefits.

  111. Ninjanice says:

    It’s not that hard to do if you don’t mind a little work and if you’re vegetarian. The trick is portioning out things and using beans, eggs and cheese for protein. Don’t buy anything that comes in individual sizes. Buy the large package and portion it out yourself. Another thing I do is buy the frozen loaves of bread dough. It tastes way better than regular white bread and you can get 6 loaves for $3. It doesn’t take up too much room in the freezer and you can use it when you want. I also love gardening and grow as much as I can in my little garden. I always have tons of tomatoes and can them so they don’t go to waste- plus they can be turned into salsa, marinara, pizza sauce or chili with a few (cheap) additions later on. It really doesn’t take that long to do once you have a system. Using beans is a good way to stretch meat. For exaple, if you’re making tacos, use 1/2 ground meat and 1/2 mashed black beans. You can also stretch ground beef with lentils, rice, bread crumbs, barley, cooked oatmeal, beans, etc. Just add an egg to it so it will stay together if you want to make patties. Also, try re-inventing leftovers. If you have a roast for dinner, you can use the leftover meat on sandwiches, in hash, an omelet, pasta dish, pizza topping, boil the bones for soup, etc.

  112. oldheathen says:

    I went out to do some cherry-picking at the grocery stores today and found that, much like the great Rice Scare of 2008, all of the basic loss leaders I’d planned to stock up on were gone – the shelves wiped clean with no more inventory expected before the end of the sale.

    So it appears that the people who can afford to are buying large quantities of these items, which I now realize means people who can only afford to buy one or two of an item are going home empty-handed or with pricier alternatives.

    We’ve started budgeting to send my mom, living in a rural area on a small Social Security check, a $50 grocery gift card the last week of every month, quite literally so she won’t go hungry and jeopardize her health.

  113. ShravastiBunting says:

    “Working one 40 hour a week job at minimum wage will net $936 per week.”

    Whaaaat? Minimum wage for Ohio is $5.15 an hour… that’s around $200 a month. And I don’t know about you but i’m ordering less pizza and when I am, I certainly don’t tip well.

  114. synergy says:

    Part of this might be where you live. My husband and I just went to the grocery store last night and we spent about $120 which will probably last us maybe 2 weeks. That’s just over this $25/week challenge and I would say that was about average for us.

    Actually, that’s not true. Prices have been climbing, so earlier in the year we were buying 2 weeks of groceries for $70-$100. We weren’t just buying junk either. We got dairy and meat and plenty of frozen vegetables which last a lot longer.

  115. kingofallcosmos says:

    I grew up on this for most of my life after my parents got divorced and I lived like this after college. For the first 4 months after college I had less than $20 a MONTH in groceries including one month where I had only $5 and the leftovers from the previous months. Basically, I bought pasta, butter, a bag of generic puffed rice cereal, and a bottle of vinegar. My daily meals were a cup of puffed rice cereal that I would eat throughout the day and pasta, which I rotated between butter and vinegar for toppings.

    I don’t get everyone here talking about balanced diets. Even now I don’t pay attention to that kind of thing and I don’t hurt for money. Growing up, it was just normal for me to have a diet that consisted entirely of toasted cheese sandwiches with the cheese sliced from that gigantic brick of cheese. I occasionally had ramen, peanut butter sandwiches, or pretzels, but that was about it for variety. Basically, you adapt to your circumstances. I went an entire year without any meat at all and the only meat I had during about two years was a hamburger for my birthday and I think we got a turkey for thanksgiving.

    Anyway, when you are in that situation, you don’t notice it. When I got to college and had dining commons food, it was nearly a shock to my system to eat such variety.

  116. oldheathen says:

    When I was young and really broke, I took a P/T job at a hotel/restaurant because while the pay was a joke, you got one free meal a day from the buffet (plus whatever you could get the cute busboys to fetch you at night).

    With 3/4 of my income going toward rent, utilities and transportation to said crappy job, that one free meal a day kept body and soul together.

  117. Justin Link says:

    I’m amazed at how spoiled and unknowledgeable people are about nutrition. There are plenty of alternatives to eating healthy at a cheap price. For one, Americans eat far more than their body needs, therefore just eating less saves money. For a good diet to live cheaply, I drink lots of filtered tap water (more water allows your digestive system to work at full efficiency of transferring nutrients to your body), take vitamin supplements such as spirulina (which has many of the daily nutrients your body needs), and eat things like short grain brown rice, honey, cheese, eggs, and nuts (which I usually just make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches). If you add all that up, it’s far less than $25/week and probably a lot more nutritious than the average American diet.

    • Justin Link says:

      @Justin Link: Oh yeah, and eat superfoods like eggplant, pumpkin, berries, avacodo, etc.
      It’s better to eat quality than quantity. Then potatoes and pasta for filler. That is plenty of options for a weekly change.

      You save money in the long run by just giving your body the nutrients it needs instead of loading it full of junk food like fast food.