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How to Feed Your Family for Under $40 per Person per Week

Like many other people who clicked to read “Grocery Shopping Tips: How To Eat Fabulously On $40 A Week” on Huffington Post, I was disappointed in the lack of follow-through on the promise in the headline. Also, I was surprised that it was supposedly a big deal to feed a single person on that amount of money. I’d expected some sort of super shopper feeding her whole family for $40 a week. Talk about a let-down.

My grocery bills normally range between $80-$110 each week -and that’s including non-food items like toilet paper and shampoo; I have to actually try to buy more stuff when I get one of those “Save $12.50 off $125 purchase” coupons from the grocery store. We failed by $17 last week, so maybe this week. In any case, we spend fewer than $40 per person each week on groceries. After taking non-food items out of the equation, I’d say we spend $20-$30 per person on food and drinks each week. It’s a mix of healthier foods and some not so healthy foods, foods that need to be prepared because my husband is such a good cook, and convenience foods that I can grab easily when I’m eating lunch at home by myself each day.

Grocery

What Can You Get for Under $40 per Person?

We are not deprived by the amount we spend at the grocery store. I am signed up with the AdvantEDGE Card loyalty program at Price Chopper, so I get extra savings through that. I occasionally use both store coupons and manufacturer coupons, some of which are eCoupons I only have to click on through a link in my email to get. And I do shop the sales. There are very few items I will buy at regular price, and I confess my pantry is overflowing with things I’ve stocked up on during sales. But what is it that we’re actually eating? Keep in mind that these things aren’t necessarily purchased every week, or even every month – but on a fairly good rotation, and seasonal for the fresh items. (Any links will go to recipes or reviews I’ve previously written on my blog.)

Fresh Produce

  • Potatoes (Russet, yellow, red, white)
  • Baby carrots or carrot “chips”
  • Romaine lettuce (bought in bagged form for convenience)
  • Onions (Vidalia, white, red)
  • Apples (Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, Pinata, Gala, and more)
  • Navel oranges
  • Strawberries
  • Pineapple (cored and peeled)
  • Corn on the cob
  • Bell peppers (green and red)

Fresh Meat

  • Chicken breast (whole or boneless and skinless)
  • Ground beef (85% lean, from the butcher shop, 1/4 lb per person)
  • Beef roasts (whatever cut is on a good sale)
  • Steak (whatever cut is on a really good sale)
  • Bacon (“Fred’s own” from the local butcher shop)
  • Ham (smaller roasts or Cook’s ham steaks)
  • Pork (roasts or Picnic shoulder for pulled pork)

Dairy Aisle (includes other refrigerated foods)

  • Milk (1% or 2% from Stewart’s, occasionally TruMoo chocolate milk for TJ)
  • Fresh mozzarella
  • Shredded cheese (reduced fat mozzarella and sharp cheddar made with 2% milk)
  • Cottage cheese (I like large curd)
  • Yogurt (Greek yogurt for me, Simply GoGurt or other healthier kids yogurts for TJ)
  • Smoked Gouda
  • Laughing Cow soft cheeses
  • Orange juice (no pulp, preferably fortified with extra nutrients)
  • Store-made pizza dough
  • Pillsbury refrigerated rolls and biscuits (especially Reduced Fat Crescent Rolls)
  • Country Crock with Calcium and Vitamin D
  • Butter
  • Eggs (from Stewart’s because they’re fresher)

Frozen

  • Smart Ones, Healthy Choice, or Lean Cuisine entrees (for Tom to bring to work for lunch)
  • Frozen gnocchi
  • Frozen ravioli
  • Assorted ice cream and popsicles
  • Cool Whip Lite
  • Frozen corn in microwaveable steam bags
  • Frozen pierogies

Other Grocery

  • Prepared rotisserie chickens
  • Prepared rotisserie turkey breast
  • Prepared fried chicken tenders
  • Assorted deli meats
  • Diet soda (Pepsi Max, Diet Orange Crush, Diet Orange Sunkist)
  • Assorted granola bars
  • Sara Lee Soft & Smooth whole grain white bread (since they don’t make the Wonder version anymore)
  • Triscuits (especially Rosemary & Olive Oil)
  • Assorted snack crackers
  • Prego pasta sauces
  • Ronzoni Smart Taste pastas
  • Cereal (Quaker Oatmeal Squares, Peanut Butter Toast Crunch, Cheerios, Cinnamon Life, and more)
  • PowerAde Zero (for TJ to bring to summer camp)
  • Flavored water (I don’t like plain water)
  • Light Ranch salad dressing
  • Nuts (almonds, peanuts, cashews)
  • Assorted cookies (I love the WhoNu varieties)
  • Canola oil
  • Vinegar (white, balsamic)
  • Spices and dried herbs (too many to list)
  • Assorted candy (not often, usually for movies or holidays)
  • Canned soup
  • Brownie mix and other baking mixes
  • Bisquick Heart Smart
  • Canned fruit (packed in water or fruit juice, not syrup)
  • Gravy in a jar (although Tom is working on how to make his own)
  • Condiments (ketchup, light mayo, mustard, etc.)
  • Peanut butter (natural chunky – do you know how hard that is to find in stores?)
  • Applesauce
  • Baking staples (flour, sugar, baking soda, etc.)
  • Ovaltine
  • Pop Tarts
  • Nutella
  • Wraps (Cedar’s whole wheat wraps with net carbs are amazing and only 80 calories)

…and that’s not an exhaustive list. You can mix and match so many of these foods to make great meals. Instead of buying potato chips and frozen french fries, Tom usually makes his own from our fresh potatoes now. We had pulled pork sandwiches last week, and leftovers for days. One whole chicken breast from the butcher shop can make enough chicken tenders for the three of us. Tom’s homemade burgers taste better than any premade patties they sell, fresh or frozen. I can make lunch out of a big bowl of cereal (fortified with nutrients and whole grain!) or a giant Romaine salad. Frozen veggies in a steam bag make quick side dishes. Tonight, we’re making wraps with rotisserie turkey breast and homemade chips on the side.

We eat well, and it doesn’t break the bank. How do you eat well on a budget?

Christina Gleason (859 Posts)

That’s me: Christina Gleason. I’m a professional copywriter, editor, and blogger. My company is called Phenomenal Content. (Hire me!) I’m a relatively high-functioning Aspie who also lives with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. I am not ashamed to admit that I am in the care of a psychiatrist, who assures me that people in therapy are often better adjusted than “normal” people who are not, because at least we know what our issues are and are working on them. I’m a geek for grammar, fantasy, and select types of gaming, including World of Warcraft and Plants vs Zombies 2. I hate vegetables. I have an intense phone phobia, so I’ll happily conduct business over email or IM instead. I have started writing no fewer than five novels, and I hope to finish one of them...eventually.

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{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Rabia @ TheLiebers July 1, 2013, 3:16 pm

    When I am more organized than I am currently, we use a calendar of rotating menus. I made a list of the foods we like to eat, planned them out over six weeks and made grocery lists for each one. This helps me buy things when they are on sale and keeps us from eating the same thing all the time. My goal is to try to keep groceries for our family of five between $100-125 a week. You can see my post here: http://theliebers.blogspot.com/2012/07/mondays-menu.html

    • Christina Gleason July 1, 2013, 3:26 pm

      That sounds like a pretty good system. I’ve tried doing a weekly menu before, but then sometimes we’re all like, “I don’t feel like having grilled cheese tonight…”

  • Melissa July 2, 2013, 4:47 pm

    We spend way too much money on food these day. We are a family of 5 and I do try to do as much organic as possible. We also steer clear of any chemical sugars, HFC and food colorings. Though we aren’t by any means perfect at that … there was actually Fruit Loops in our home this week!!! It would be amazing if I could become more organized with couponing and meal planning and this is a great motivator to do so. Thank you for sharing this!

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