A lot of people have been writing to me asking if it is indeed possible for a couple to live on $50 a week for food. My usual rule of thumb is $50 per person per week, but desperate times call for desperate measures. When I put a couple on $50 a week, it’s because they have so much debt that they must cut back on essentials in order to get clear of the debt. Hey, necessity is the mother of invention and $50 a week CAN be done.
You have to be a good shopper. A dozen eggs cost about $2.70. That’s six eggs each in any form you want to make ‘em. Eggs are full of protein and, therefore, quite filling. Shop the sales: one week bread may be on sale, the next tins of salmon. Have a float of about $20 in your food jar to take advantage of the specials that will save you money over the month. Scour the fliers for deals and then hit the store with the price-matching policy. Peanut butter that usually sells for almost five bucks can be had for as little as $2.49 on sale. (I bought four.)
You have to use everything you buy. Waste is the biggest enemy of a tight budget. Old potatoes become hash browns. Just-going-off veggies become stew fixin’s. Chicken bones become stock with addition of some onions (cheap) and left over veggies.
Look for alternatives. Beans are a great source of protein. Add a little sausage (you can buy a pack of 5 sausages for $3.49 and one to a meal for flavour), and bulk up with veggies that will give you the vitamins and minerals you need to be healthy. Overeating happens when you’re eating empty calories and your brain says, “keep going” until you get the nutrients it wants.
Invest in healthy staples. Peanut butter, oatmeal, rice, chickpeas and pasta all make your food budget go much further. Batch cook and freeze portions so you can jump-start dinner when you’re short of time or energy. Soup is easy to make and can feed you for days (or freeze it for a meal next week and in weeks to come for variety). I’ve got a squash and some garlic roasting in the oven right now. I’ll add one of my frozen containers of chicken stock (which cost pennies to make), some ginger (a little goes a long way) and I’ll have enough soup for 6 lunches.
Don’t buy prepared foods. Legumes cost less than a dollar a pound and one pound makes the equivalent of three cans. Making your own sauces means you can flavour it just the way you like (more or less garlic, with or without cilantro).
Add variety. Mussels are cheap (less than $2 a pound) and you don’t have to get too fancy with them. Add stock (do you know you can make fish stock from left-over shrimp tails along with fish skin and bones?), sweet onion, garlic, a bay or lime leaf and enjoy a fabulous meal. Or curry those puppies and then use the left-over sauce to cook your next meal of rice.
Eat the recommended size portions. We tend to over-eat big-time. Learn to eat less and take the time to enjoy every bite. Make eating a wonderful experience as opposed to something you rush through. Savour the flavours. Take smaller bites. Relish the freshness.
Stick with lots of fruit and veggies, and eliminate most of your meat. You might be surprised at how little meat you have to eat to be healthy. As Michael Pollan says, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”