Back in October, I wrote a post, Hippie Method: Frugal Eating. It was wildly popular. (insert unladylike snort). My tips and ideas on how I feed my family of 6 for $400 or less a month generated a lot of conversation. I decided to revisit the topic to summarize some of what has been discussed.
1. Location is everything. I wrote from the perspective of where I live and the food stamp allowance in my area. But, it must be acknowledged that food prices vary greatly from city to city, and country to country. Thus, you may not be able to feed your family of 6 for $400 a month. Which is what it is. Fact, not judgement.
2. An annual membership to Sam’s Club or Costco is $45-$55, which is a big chunk of change, but averages out to about $1 per week. That dollar provides tremendous savings on many items, which more than make up the membership cost. They have the best regular prices on meat, cheese, cereal, diapers, canned goods, and staples.
3. Maximize sales. I watch prices. Sam’s Club’s prices are fairly constant. So, I make up my shopping list with the sale prices of Meijer, shop first at Aldi and then compare and buy the product at the lowest price between the 3 stores. It takes very little effort, but saves quite a lot of money.
4. We eat tons of chicken. Chicken is the cheapest meat around, even trumping ground beef. I’d estimate we eat chicken at 50% or more of our dinner meals.
5. Little or no waste. I rarely throw away food. If I buy something, I generally have a plan for it. If I have leftovers, I work them into my schedule. Last night we had sour cream and green onion mashed potatoes to use up the green onion. Frugality involves watching prices, not buying unnecessary items and using what you bought.
6. Meals and dollars can be stretched with cheaper sides. Salad, vegetables, bread, potatoes, rice, and pasta go much farther per pound than meat. And they are cheaper. I don’t skimp on my family’s on entrees or meat. If I expect a meal to go 2 meals, I make plenty, make my expectations known, and make sure I have enough sides to fill in the gaps.
7. Ingredients are always cheaper than already prepared food. You can buy 2 dozen cookies for $5, or you can make 7 dozen cookies for about $3. Pesto by the jar is at least $3 or more. Homemade pesto, via a bag of spinach, olive oil and nuts is about $2.50-for twice as much. Dried beans are about a third of the price of canned beans. So, at some point in time you weigh what is more important on a given day-saving time or saving money?
8. Lots of pantry space and a chest freezer are helpful, but not necessary. I have no pantry space. I have a couple cupboards in a very small kitchen. So, I can’t keep many canned goods or staples stored up. I do keep my 25 pound bags of flour, oatmeal and rice in a large garbage can in my basement. I have had a chest freezer for less than 3 years. I was married for almost 10 years before we bought a freezer. Our fourth child made her entrance and we bought a freezer that next weekend. How do those events correlate? I have no idea.=)
9. My cost of $400 a month was a generous rounding up. It covers everything-summer farm produce purchases, bulk purchases, grocery purchases and club memberships. My grocery bill last week (for 2 weeks) was $173. This included meat for more than 2 weeks because ham and pork were both on sale. It also included toilet paper, and soap. It factored in a potluck, 2 dinners with 2 extra guests and 1 dinner with 7 extra guests and a rotisserie chicken for a new recipe I was trying.
My menu included mole chicken (2 meals- one with guests, one without), Latin Chicken, depression meatloaf, picadillo/beans & rice, chili (2 meals), pork tenderloin w/ peppers, poppyseed chicken, mac and cheese (from scratch), pizza, pulled pork nachos, feta chicken. (and a smorgasbord of leftovers one meal). Most meals included fresh lettuce salads, a starch and often rolls or french bread.
So, obviously, we are eating good in the Barefoot Hippie hood.
10. God provides. I will stand unequivocally on this point. It isn’t just me being frugal and stretching dollars and ingredients. The story of the 5 loaves and 2 fishes in all the Gospels regularly lives itself out on a much smaller scale in my life. God is the Provider. He makes the food stretch so all are satisfied and there are leftovers. Plus just last week someone gave me over 2 pounds of good lunch meat that would have cost over $10 in the store. That’s a God thing.
I hope these thoughts are helpful, clarifying, inspiring and encouraging.