What’s the minimum to feed your family?

17 Oct

I was reading this article in the Free Press –  It was a challenge for a single person to survive on 4$ a day for food – they were able to have 5 prestocked food pantry items. 4$ doesn’t seem like a lot, when you think of picking up takeout or a quick meal….but for our family of 3 I think 12$ a day would be completely doable. I often make huge dishes for dinner, things that make 2 or 3 dinners and a few lunches and it’s often under 10$ for the entire thing. With a kid it would be hard, no convenience snacks or prepacked items…but there’s lots of cheap fruit. I guess if you have to factor in milk (coffee cream would be gone) it might be stretching it….but you would just have to learn to limit it. We buy our bread at McGavin’s so it’s less than 1$ a loaf, and you always get some free ones. Toast and soup for 3 for lunch (we often do that with bagels) is under 1$ for 3 people. Throw in some fruit for dessert and you have a meal for maybe 2-3$ tops. We buy our meat in bulk from a farm so it’s really cheap too – and the quality is great! Last night I made pulled pork in the slow cooker – I used 2 small roasts so maybe 10-15$ worth of meat, 1 red onion (no idea?) and 1 bottle of bbq sauce for 2-3$. We had it with mashed potatoes with is probably another 2$, let’s say 3$ with milk and butter. Max for this would be 20-22$ – will make a few dinners and sandwiches for my husband for the entire week. I often make meals out of things that we find free or super cheap at the grocery store too – those old el paso kits for 3.50 with the coupon for free cheese…and use some ground pork and a few veggies. Under 10$ and makes a dinner and a lunch. We buy big cases of applesauce for school snacks – they’re cheap and could be dessert or a snack. Fruit is often on sale – sometimes the deals are crazy, and you can freeze it. Turkeys were 10$ recently – easy to cook and makes tons of meals. I freeze most of it for sandwiches and I make a fried rice with veggies and brown rice with the chopped up meat.

For us with some preplanning it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch. It would mean no more takeout or trying out new recipes – but all my cheap old classics would qualify. Definitely no eating out and entertaining would be a stretch though. I’d have to give up my Starbucks and Tassimo for sure too. I think it would be hard for a single person with just the 4$ a day though – big meals wouldn’t make as much sense and would eat up too much of the budget.  

What do you guys think? Is it doable keeping it healthy and enjoyable? What are your cheapest recipes? What are the staples that you stock up on when they’re cheap?

16 Replies to “What’s the minimum to feed your family?

  1. I think that the $4 per day is easier the more people you have in your family. We are a family of 5, including a teenager and an infant. The teenager eat a lot and the infant eats almost nothing because he’s still on formula , so they average out. We spend an average of $350/mo as a family, plus $80 in formula. So even with the formula it comes out to less than $3 per day per person. I can’t wait until the baby is off the formula as that will be a big saving.

    I really shop sales and stock up when I can. We do eat meat pretty much everyday for supper/lunch. The lunches for the adults are mostly leftovers, as we don’t eat out for lunch.
    We spend an additional $125/mo on takeout or restaurant. This is a treat for us and budgeted as part of our entertainment.

    From what I understand it is very difficult in the inner city to get groceries at a decent price, as people do not have the ability to shop around.

    • There’s always the bus to shop around…I do my smaller shops on foot. A good backpack is a must! 🙂 Checking the flyers is easy and you don’t have to drive or bus around. I’ve never understood that logic – they always use that as an excuse on the news. There are stores pretty much everywhere now – with coupons and flyer checking anyone can shop well.
      I love that you budget the takeout, awesome idea! And you’re right, the more people the easier 4$ per person is. I’m not sure I’d want to do the challenge on my own, but as a family of 3 I think things wouldn’t change too much.

      • That’s a luxury to have though…the time and energy to go bus and shop around. If you are on a limited income to begin with, chances are you are working at least two jobs. Maybe you have kids too. Maybe you’re a single parent. Even if you only work one job, you have to arrange child care and then you have to drag your kids around on the bus to various grocery stores just to get a few better deals here and there. If there’s a simpler way to save your sanity and energy there’s a good chance you’re going to take that route.

    • I’m lucky and get it from relatives – but there are farms that sell direct. You can also cut costs by ordering large packages from the butchers. We do that when we run out. Maybe there’s someone on here who knows a farm that sells the meat direct?

      • My Dad has an elk farm and sells the meat. It is amazing with no “wild” taste. We use it instead of beef regularly. He butchers a few times a year. If you are interested you can contact me @ carlapenno (at) yahoo (dot) ca

  2. I like Nadine that you have such a positive attitude but I think we are all trying to live on less now. I sure wouldn’t want to have to buy my groceries on foot or on the bus as i am feeding 5 of us, three very hungry teenagers and we go through loads of food. I try to make pasta, rice, potatoes etc, but it is expensive. So yes, it’s gotten harder to save. ps) I do buy all bread from McGavins, shop the sales but it is hard to afford the basics: milk, fresh fruits and veggies and gas. I can’t imagine what it’s like for large families below the poverty line.

    • I only do the small trips on foot – we do have a car! 🙂 I wouldn’t be walking to mcgavins! 😉 For fresh fruit and veg we try to play the sales as much as possible – things like pears and apples go cheap and they last so long in the fridge. There’s that book (which i can’t remember the name) of that family of 5ish who only shopped once or twice a month- they had awesome tips on how to stretch stuff out and what lasts. Most of their tips were too far out for me, but using fruit in order stuck. We eat what will go bad fast and always have a drawer with kiwis, apples etc. for extra. Can’t imagine having 3 teenagers to feed though! 🙂

  3. Thanks Nadine, I always get great tips here. Today for instance I got up early to go to Safeway at 7:30 am to stock up on yogurt –they have the 50% off sections for dairy, meat, and bakery goods. Sometimes you get a pretty great deal, that’s how we’ve been buying yogurt lately as it goes pretty quickly around our house, but sometimes i have also gotten cheese and just freeze it, grated or not. My kids always bring their lunches to school and one kid got a job at a fast food place–it all helps. We never go out to dine any more but the food prices keep going up. Thanks to sites like yours, I feel at least it isn’t completely out of control! Thank you for all you do!

    • Clearance sections are a lifesaver for the budget! 🙂 I love deals on stuff you can freeze for later – especially yogourt tubes, bread, cheese, meat etc. Stock up for cheap and coast on that for a while. Buying the basics on 10% off days is good too – just depends how big your fridge is. For the 3 of us we always grab 2 or 3 jugs of milk, that way we aren’t always at the store. Most things now last a long time. It’s awesome you’re teaching your kids too, bringing lunches is just such a money saver, for kids and adults.

  4. Well, we are a family of 8, if you calculate $4/day per person you are up to $990, which is about what we spend, and I’m pretty free with what we buy / eat. I guess in some ways it really shows how it becomes more economical (but not cheaper) when feeding a big crowd!

    • That is a really good point Dawn! We aren’t a large family but if I find a deal on something huge I’ll usually see if someone wants to go halfers on it 🙂

  5. I think this would be really difficult in order to eat healthy and without any procesed foods. Especially in the winter when fresh fruit and veggies are a lot more expensive. I have a family of 5, and on average spend $400-450 every two weeks on food. But I make everything from scratch. I also but my meat in bulk but I find that it is the Fruits and veggies that cost the most, especially when the majority of what you eat is fresh.

  6. As someone who does live at or below the poverty line i just calculated that i average a meal cost at 6$ per day and thats not including the basics (milk, ect) that is just all prepackaged stuff (kd, sidekicks, ect). Ive recently had to start registering every two weeks with winnipeg harvest just to stretch my food and get 1 1L jug of milk to hopefully tie me over till either the next harvest or my food check at the beginning of each month and hope i have enough for milk.

    I personally find the cost of everything goes up except minimum wage or fixed income (assistance, eia recipients, ect). And im a single person with no kids or significant other.

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