The news has been viral with all this talk about SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) and as a former food stamp recipient I can attest that getting $29 a week is GENEROUS. When I was a recently divorced single mom with four kids and a job that only paid $7 an hour, I only got $269 for the MONTH! On top of that I was Jewish and following a Kosher diet that prevented me from getting many things with my “allowance”. (Kosher meat was exempt from the program.) So unless mommy got some extra cash, we became vegetarians at home.
Now flash-forward to the present. I have a loving husband, with a good job and makes enough that I can stay home with the kids. However, that doesn’t change the way I shop for food. I still work on a budget of a $100 a week to feed my family of five. (My oldest is an adult living in another state so that why I’m not counting six.) When you think of it, that is $20 per person, per week. Much less than SNAP. Yet, I do it. My mother still is in awe of my food budget.
Now, this is for FOOD. Not other things like soap, toilet paper, etc. Just food. I keep separate expenses for those items. Plus, with coupons I can get most of those items free.
Now to get us started, I’m going to start with appliances. These are what make my job easier AND what help keep your food budget down. The savings you get from USING the product more than makes up the cost. Next time family ask you what you want for the holidays, think these items.
*KitchenAid Mixer- Make sure you get one that is large enough for your family and has all the attachments to make bread. Also, if you can get it, get the ice cream maker attachment too.
*Blender-any will do. We picked up ours from Goodwill and it’s always done us good.
*Food Processor-a 5 pound of bag of potatoes, shredded to hash browns will feed your family for a month. Of less, if they love it enough.
*Bread machine if you want loaves, this is a good option. You just add ingredients then go about your day. I was lucky enough that my mom gave me her old one since she never uses it. Again, check Goodwill. They seem to have lost their popularity so I see them there all the time. User manuals are plenty online.
*Crockpot- make sure it’s a LARGE one. You want to be able to fit a roast in there.
*Soda Stream- From fruity seltzer water to your own soda on a whim. It’s worth it if you’re a soda junkie.
A word about meats….
Prices of meat are high in general across the country. Even here in Texas prices are high. Now add the luxury of Kosher meats. Here are some tips that I go buy when buying Kosher meats:
*Buy lots of chicken at 2.99lb or less,
*Buy lots of beef at 5.99lb or less,
*If prices are higher than buy lowest price meat that is slice-and-dice-able. Use these meats as fillers for tacos, spaghetti dishes, pot pies, or rice dishes.
*Fish doesn’t have to be certified Kosher. Just follow standard Kosher law. (ex. no shellfish) If salmon is cheaper than beef one week, buy salmon.
*I’m not above buying tuna in a can. Especially when it’s on sale for 50 cents a can. Those are a great addition to Mac N’ Cheese.
Now for some menu ideas…
*cinnamon rolls (homemade or the Pillsbury ones. They always have a coupon)
*bagged cereal or Pop tarts (whichever is less, or gives me the free milk savings. Also, check the organics aisles. Many times I will find their cereals on sale for less than the popular brands. Remember to always check the per unit price vs the total cost.)
* coffee cake (I always have some leftover from Passover that I need to use before they expire)
*French toast (for stale bread)
*Grilled Cheese sandwiches
*Egg salad Sandwiches
*Leftovers (usually stolen by my husband)
*PB&J or Nutella & bananas (one of my kids is allergic to peanuts)
*Nachos (usually make the chips from corn tortillas)
*Fried Bread Mexican Tacos
*Spaghetti (with alfredo or marinara, whatever is on sale that week)
*Kraft Mac & Cheese or Anne’s if it’s on sale for $1 (bulk up with tuna, broccoli, or some other veggie you would like to hide from the kids)
*Sliced Potatoes and eggs (my dad makes then when my mom would go out-of-town. now I make it!)
*Store brand American Blend salad (its $1 a bag x5 days, its works for us)
*Store brand $1 frozen veggies (always frozen. can veggies are so bad for you)
*Tacos (either I make it with corn tortillas or make my own flour tortillas) with veggie refried beans
*Spaghetti Tacos (for when I don’t have enough spaghetti for a meal)
*Oil-free “Fried” chicken
*Breaded chicken (when I am in a pitch for breadcrumbs I will use FiberOne or Leftover Matzah Meal from Passover mixed with Spike seasoning and Paprika)
*Fried Rice (usually leftover white rice mixed up with egg and some frozen veggies, and soy sauce)
*Leftover soup (throw what you have in a pot, add water, and cook) served with a side of garlic bread and salad
Most of our snacks are homemade, but once in a while we will indulge. My daughter LOVES to make cake.
*Chocolate chip cookies
*Goldfish (only when on sale)
*Chips (from corn tortillas or store brand. whichever is cheaper per unit)
*Fruit (whatever is in season and on sale. We will freeze anything that is in excess and use for smoothies later)
*Ice cream (what is on sale or make at home. Freezepops are the BEST cheap eat.)
*Popcorn (we have an air popper, but you can easily make your own microwave popcorn using a bag or a glass bowl or, like my husband, in a pot or wok)
Of course this list is not exclusive. We always have a full fridge, and the kids never feel starved. You must decided what is best for your family. Coupon is great but forced me to buy a lot of food I would never buy or was just TOO unhealthy. Most of my food budget is pulled from the meat and produce department.
I hope this helps you.