Sunday, September 21, 2008

$50 a Week

Last week, I was part of a discussion with several good friends about how to feed a family of four on $50 a week. I've had to pinch pennies pretty drastically before, so it wasn't all that hard for me to come up with ideas. Here are some of them:

1) I think I've mentioned that we'll often grill several chicken breasts at a time. I marinate them in Italian dressing first. They're good by themselves, but to stretch them a little further, I'll cut them up and put them in quesadillas, King Ranch casserole, pasta alfredo dishes, tettrazini, etc.

2) Bulk hamburger meat can be used for hamburgers, meat loaf, and casseroles. My kids love browned hamburger meat with mushroom soup, served over egg noodles.

3) Tuna casserole is inexpensive, easy and a good source of omega fatty acids. Two cans of tuna, drained, two cans of mushroom soup, and potato chips -- that's all you need. Actually, my recipe calls for chopped mushrooms (in the jar or can) and pimientos, but my kids don't care for those.

4) Breakfast for dinner isn't the healthiest meal, but it's inexpensive and offers a great source of protein for growing bodies.

5) Macaroni and cheese is my husband's suggestion.

6) I certainly wouldn't want hot dogs too often, but they are an inexpensive meal.

Of course, with all those options, I'd serve a healthy vegetable, too. If you're on a budget, it's hard to beat the price of canned veggies.

7) I make a cowboy caviar with a can of black beans (rinsed & drained), a can of blackeyed peas (drained), a can of hominy (drained), 1 chopped tomato, 1/2 chopped onion, cilantro, and 1/2 bottle Italian dressing. Mix & chill before serving. Serve as a dip for tortilla chips. Technically, this is an appetizer, but it's very good as a main course on a hot, summer day. If I don't have a tomato, I'll use a can of Rotel instead.

8) Chinese cole slaw would be another great vegetarian meal. I need to look up the recipe and post it on my blog. It really is great and makes quite a bit.

9) Sandwiches are often inexpensive. We like grilled cheese sandwiches with hot, tomato soup. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a favorite with most kids.

10) Mini pizzas can be made with bagels or English muffins as the "crust." Spread on some store-bought sauce and add toppings of your choice.

As for snacks & desserts, Rice Krispie treats are inexpensive, especially if you use store brand substitutes. Box cake mix is also inexpensive. Skip the frosting if it's a chocolate or spice cake and just sprinkle on a bit of powdered sugar, instead.

My daughter likes to make simple peanut butter cookies with a cup of peanut butter, a cup of sugar and one egg. Mix together and bake at 350 for 10-12 mins. (They won't get quite as dark as traditional peanut butter cookies).

My 17-year-old son likes cold cereal and ramen noodles as snacks, which are both very inexpensive.

What do you think? Could you feed a family of four on $50?


Pat@Back Porch Musings said...

Great ideas Sandra!

My daughters ate a lot of Ramen Noodles when they were in college. They were allowed microwaves and a small fridge in their dorm rooms. The noodles were perfect for that situation! They ate a lot of popcorn too!

Have a great week.

dec0r8or said...

Ha...Kathleen eats Ramen noodles and popcorn as if they were actually nutritious options! It kills me. The kid needs some danged protein! Anyway, I need to start looking for ways to decrease the grocery bill, because I spend about $80/week for THREE of us. Ugh. Thanks for the tips!

Linda at Lime in the Coconut! said...

Hey! I posted a message...guess not.

50 a day?? or week??

A week can be done, but would take a lot of creativity and energy (of which I have near to none, of late!)

Here are my cheapy faves:

Homeade chicken soup. The quartes are cheap, add bunches of celery, parsnips, carrots and parsley..and half of a lemon. you can make your own noodles with just the cost of four and an egg.(big pot lasts severla meals) fave is with broccoli and TONS of garlic some red pepper flakes and parm.

Snack...freeze strawberries whole when it is U-Pick season. Throw frozen strawberries in the blender with orange juice (cheap if you have a tree ;) and some yogurt (can even make your own with those handy dandy yogurt makers). Great smoothie!

Ramen noodles...I lived on those in college...that and mustard sandwiches, coffee and the NYTimes!!

Nola @ AlamoNorth said...

I hope the $50 is just for food items; usually I keep the grocery bill at no more than $100 for 3 adults, but that includes cleaning and other household supplies, as well as odds and ends.
My suggestions are:
1. No prepackaged "convenience" foods.
2. Generics when quality isn't compromised.
3. Buy in bulk when you can.
4. Prepare double recipes, freeze one to eat at another time.
5. Eat what is in season, it's usually less expensive.
6. Use leftovers; don't throw food away!

Jerri Lynn @ Southern Sassyness said...

Great post, Sandra! It seems as though I have spending a ton of groceries lately!

I am going to have to try your cowboy caviar - sounds delish!

suzette said...

I LOVE your cowboy caviar, although I omit the hominy and use garbanzo beans instead... ;-) I could have sworn I read $50 day this morning...

Jen@The Cottage Nest said...

Those are all great ideas Sandra! We use some of them too. Thursday night we will grill 2 pkgs of chicken breasts and I will probably use the leftovers to make quesidillas or chicken salad sandwiches.