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  #1  
Old 12-12-2011, 09:45 AM
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Default How Much Does it Cost to Feed a Family of Four?

I was flicking around the TV yesterday and came across a snippet of an infomercial about healthy eating. The host asked the audience, "How many of you think you can feed a family of four a healthy meal for $20 or less?" In an audience of perhaps 75 people about 5 people raised their hand. Host continues, "YES!! You can feed your family of four a meal for $20 and in just a moment, I'll show you how!!"

Well, that didn't seem too amazing to me so I didn't keep watching. I figure a good balanced meal for a family of four can be done for $10-$12 without even trying hard. What do you say about it?
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Old 12-12-2011, 10:42 AM
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Well, tonight we will be having wine-braised Italian sausages. The ingredients are:

Pasta $1
Italian sausages $1.99
can of tomatoes $0.50
carrots $0.05
onion $0.10
spices (not figuring this in - it's very small quantities of what I have on hand)
wine $1
tomato paste $0.10

I will serve it with toasted rolls that are stale (I'll butter them and rub them with garlic and toast them) so we'll say that's $1.00 even though I had them leftover from getting them for free.

I will also have a salad which cost me $3 and has fed us for about a week. The salad will cost me maybe $1.50 total because of what we're adding to it (other veggies, dressing, etc.)

So the whole dinner will cost me $6.25 to feed my family of 6 and it will give us leftovers as well.

$20 is a REALLY nice meal for us - with me getting a roast! If I need to go cheap, I can easily do a full meal for 1/2 that.
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Old 12-12-2011, 11:09 AM
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I think tonight is meatloaf, baked potatoes, and veggie. I figure:

1 1/4 lb. Ground beef, $3.50
4 potatoes, $1.00
3/4 lb. frozen veggies, $1.20
3 cups milk, .75
Butter, sour cream, breadcrumbs, onion, spices, approx. $.50
Fresh baked apple crisp dessert for four, approx. $1.50

Total = $8.45
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Old 12-12-2011, 11:19 AM
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On another board I'm on, someone said that it was impossible to feed one person on $150 a month and I said it could be done. I was challenged to show how and here's what I came up with.

___________________________________

That's 30 meals - breakfast, lunch and dinner. Let's try this:

$4 oats - 42 oz.
$2 store brand raisins - 15 oz.
$2 - 2 lbs. brown sugar
$6 - 3 dozen eggs (will be used for baking too so not all of the $6 will be breakfast)
$6 - 4 lbs. oranges (not quite in season right now)
$2.50 100 tea bags (will not just be for breakfast)
$13 64 oz. powdered milk
$3 - one gallons milk
$4 - 10 lbs. flour
$0.50 - salt
$0.70 - baking soda
$2 - baking powder
$2 - shortening
$3.50 - canola oil
$6 - 3 lbs. butter
$2 - 18 oz. peanut butter
$2 - 32 oz. jelly
$4 - 1 lb. bologna
$4 - 16 oz. shredded cheddar (amazingly enough, this is cheapest!!)
$3 - 3 bags 16 oz. baby carrots (these are cheaper this week too!)
$4.50 - 3 heads lettuce
$2 - 2 squash (either butternut or acorn)
$5 - 5 packages pasta
$4 - 4 cans Hunts spaghetti sauce
$7.50 - 3 lbs. ground turkey
$17 - 3 whole chickens
$4.50 - one london broil (meat is NOT on sale this week)
$4 - 4 lbs. dried beans
$1 - two heads garlic
$3 - 3 lbs. onions
$3 - 5 lbs. potatoes
$8 - 10 cans vegetables
$2 - 18 oz. pancake syrup
$3 - 32 oz. bag brown rice
$2 - 2 lbs. popcorn
$5 - yeast
$3 - 5 lbs sugar

OK - I think that's good. A few things: most meals will make 4 servings at least. Leftovers can be frozen or used a couple of days later. Some leftovers will be made into something else. Bread will have to be baked at home as will cookies, biscuits and the like. Some of the baking ingredients will last quite a bit longer than one month so the following month, the grocery list can change a bit. Most people don't have to pay these high prices and I know I can go into the store and get MUCH better deals on clearance items (meat and produce especially) so the budget will last MUCH more than this. I'd guess with sale prices and/or shopping at bulk stores/farmer's markets/roadside stands and cheaper markets, you can get this same exact list for $20 cheaper which I would then spend on more veggies and fruit. At this time of year I'd get a peck of apples, celery, zucchini and some pumpkin.

So we have:

Breakfast:
Oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar
pancakes with butter and syrup, orange
eggs and toast with jelly

Lunch:

peanut butter and jelly
grilled cheese and soup (soup will be made for dinner and leftovers will be used here)
leftovers/dinner foods

Dinners:

* roast the chicken and get a meal - these are big roasters - 7 lbers so it should easily feed one person a week - leftover chicken is made into:
* chicken pot pie with homemade crust
* chicken soup
* chicken a-la king over rice
* chicken stir-fry
* chicken and rice
* chicken burritos

* brown the turkey meat and make into:
* chili
* turkey soup
* turkey and gravy over biscuits (homemade)

* thinly slice the steak and make into:
* stir fry
* beef stew
* steak tidbits on rice

* the pasta is pretty easy
* use a little beef in the sauce for a meat sauce
* use a little ground turkey to make a turkey meat sauce
* use as is with pasta sauce
* macaroni and cheese

* cook up the beans to make
* beans and squash casserole
* beans and rice
* baked beans
* bean soup

That's 20 meals and each one will make more than one serving. Lunch and dinner will use the vegetables in varying degrees. Additionally, there is enough ingredients to make cookies, muffins or cakes for snacks/dessert and there is also popcorn for a snack. The beverage will be either water or tea, hot or cold, sweetened or unsweetened.

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Old 12-12-2011, 11:32 AM
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My family lived for 12+ years with two teenaged sons who knew how to eat, and while I laid out over $60K for my under grad and graduate work, while we never brought in over $27K a year. I'll bet I could feed a family of 4 for a week on $20 if that is what it took, and I'll also bet that I have...

We have twice lived off the land where the vast majority of our food was hunted/gathered. One of the first things I did after moving back to Wisconsin and taking the job with the charter school was to scope out the area around the school. I've got all the wild berries and asparagus staked out so I can find it in spring. I know where the "meat roast" beds down at night. I know that pigeons are good food once in a roasting pan. And, I have a nice air rifle that makes no noise and can harvest whatever needs to hit the roasting pan next. I'll do likewise when we finally move to our own place and stop bunking with in-laws. Half or more of our food this year will come from nature even though we can buy it when we want. We prefer it that way.

If given a chance and a place, we also raise our own steers for meat. I've found that raising two steers a year is adventageous, as the proceeds from selling one makes the other free for our own freezer. It costs around $800 to raise up a pair of steers to about 1000 # on the hoof. Add to that about a dollar a pound for processing fees. That means the 600# of prime beef that hits the freezer runs just over a dollar a pound, and it is very easy to sell it for double to triple that value.
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Old 12-12-2011, 01:30 PM
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Twenty dollars makes a very nice meal for my family of 4, but trying to stretch that $20 for an entire week is very difficult and would include some major food boredom from eating beans and rice every day.

For a nice $20 meal, I can get:
beef roast--$7
8 potatoes--$1.50
1 lb. carrots--$1.50
1 onion--$.40
1 bunch celery--$1.50
spices--pennies
rolls--$2, unless I make my own from scratch for maybe $1
butter or margarine--$.25
---------------
total:about $13

I can make this in the crockpot to feed all 4 of us for a Sunday dinner, with enough left over for supper and for hubby to take for lunch the next day.
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Old 12-12-2011, 01:47 PM
glfredrick glfredrick is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by abcgrad94 View Post
Twenty dollars makes a very nice meal for my family of 4, but trying to stretch that $20 for an entire week is very difficult and would include some major food boredom from eating beans and rice every day.

For a nice $20 meal, I can get:
beef roast--$7
8 potatoes--$1.50
1 lb. carrots--$1.50
1 onion--$.40
1 bunch celery--$1.50
spices--pennies
rolls--$2, unless I make my own from scratch for maybe $1
butter or margarine--$.25
---------------
total:about $13

I can make this in the crockpot to feed all 4 of us for a Sunday dinner, with enough left over for supper and for hubby to take for lunch the next day.
Yup... When one starts talking about that level of $$$ choice is not on the menu. It is a lot of starches and a little bit of flavor.

What I normally purchase:

Beef -- whole sirloin roast when on sale, $1.95 per pound, often in 15+ lbs size. Up front costs, but a LOT of meals, from a couple of steaks, two family sized roasts, a pot of soup from the roasting drippings, and some trimmings for a big pot of stew or chili.

Rice -- generic, cheap as it gets, under $2.00 for a couple pound bag.

Veggies -- mostly frozen from neighbors who garden, sometimes purchased on "last day" sales for pennies on the dollar. Cut off the brown spots or use them for the soup.

Potatoes -- harvested for free from the fields while the harvestors are in action. A truck load per day. They keep well for most of the winter and into spring, when what is left is planted in the garden for fresh potatoes when they sprout.

Venison -- harvested locally, price of a license (about $25) and ammo (I handload, so about 5 for $1.00 and it only takes one...) for about 50 lbs.

Pasta -- various types, mostly generic, purchased with coupons or on sale.

Fruit -- local co-op and local trees when possible. Frozen or canned. Fresh is a luxury, but worth it, about $3.00 per week or so in addition to what is in the pantry or freezer.

Chicken -- purchased at under $1.00 per lb. (often $0.59 a pound) or substituted with wild game birds when available (yes, including pigeons).

Ham -- one of the most reasonable of meats from the store. Picnic hams are usually under $2.00 lb.

Beans -- cheap when purchased dry.

That about does it for a low cost menu that will keep one alive.
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Old 12-12-2011, 08:13 PM
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You have some amazing low prices where you live! The cheapest I can get is $1.49 for chicken, and that's buying whole chickens during a "blue moon" sale. Rice and lentils have gone up in my local store, as has most fresh produce. Cabbage is cheap year-round. A "good" price for beef in any form is $2.99 a pound, unless you combine with others to buy a whole cow from a farmer, then you can get it for just over $2 a pound.
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Old 12-13-2011, 04:12 PM
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Sounds average, I guess. We average around $1.15 per person per meal in our home.

Sometimes less.
Sometimes more.

Just did the math and that's less than he proposes.

On the other hand, it's cheaper to buy more at once than less at once, so it may very well be that it is harder for someone without a deep freezer to feed their family with less expense. Before we got ours, I spent a lot more money because I had to buy less at once and not get the discount you get for buying more, plus we had to make more trips.

There's lots of stuff to factor in. My budget would inflate by about a third if I still lived in Oregon. It would easily triple and then some if I were back in central Alaska. I'm in Oklahoma, and I've never lived in a place where store bought food cost less than it does here.
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Old 12-13-2011, 04:47 PM
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Gina, you touched on an issue that we live by...

Buy as much as possible on those days when the price is right.

Shopping in small quantities for daily needs is always more expensive. Biggest trick is to carefully avoid waste and also the desire to dig into all the good stuff the same day you shop.

We learned the technique of interval shopping when we lived in a small community in Wisconsin. The nearest reasonable supermarket or other shopping was about 45 miles away We learned to shop for the month instead of the day or week. We could then run to town and get milk if we needed it.

Speaking of milk, our family has supplied that through various means, first direct from the cow when we were still dairy farmers, then through relatives who farmed, and when we lived far enough removed from them for that, we bought milk that was outdated from a local bottling plant. Some was ripe, most was okay if you used it within a day or so. Some was just getting there and it made some decent "buttermilk" pancakes and other baked goods. Sour, buttermilk, what's the difference? If you've never tried pancakes with slightly soured milk, give it a try.

These days, I work at a school and I get my milk and cereal for free. I bring home about 5-6 gallons a week from the stuff kids toss out without even opening. Same for the cereal. We serve breakfast every day and they take the pack just for the crackers or cookies and toss the rest. I have enough that I am supplying a local rescue shelter with the leftovers, and that is after my wife makes all sorts of desert bars, breads chicken, etc.
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