But for those of you who haven't been here since the beginning, I'm feeding two people three meals a day, good healthy ones, for less than $200 a month. When my husband and I lived in San Diego, I could do it for $160 a month, primarily because the local fruits and veggies were so cheap. On the East Coast, it's a little more. Here's how the system works:
- I cook. I plan ahead, I work the sales, I utilize every scrap of everything. (This sounds like a lot of work, but I spend an average of half an hour to 45 minutes a day in the kitchen, and about two minutes a day of planning.)
- I buy in bulk. Costco or Sam's Club or whatever your local warehouse store is, at the very least buy your non-perishables there. I can get a year's worth of generic laundry detergent for $14, a gallon of milk for less than $3, 36 eggs for less than $2, and 25 pounds of flour for $6. The savings add up quickly. Granted, shopping in bulk will often push the per-month totals above $200, but it amortizes out across the year.
- In summer, I join a CSA (community-supported agriculture, where you buy a share of a local farm's produce and get a box of fresh fruits and veggies from that farm every week); in winter, I shop the sales. Either way, I don't buy anything out of season. No strawberries or lettuce in January, no spinach in June. Not only is it more expensive, out-of-season produce usually tastes gross. Right now I'm eating a lot of winter greens (kale, mustard and collard greens), apples and potatoes, and I use frozen spinach in a lot of stuff.
- Leftovers are lunches.
- I usually fix one thing per meal and that's it. Meat + side dishes is expensive; I make one thing (soup, rice and beans, spaghetti, whatever) and that's what we eat.
- Most importantly, I don't buy crap. No soda, no cereal, no deli meat, no convenience foods--pre-shredded cheese, microwaveable anything, canned soup--no chips, no snack foods, basically I avoid anything that comes in a package. I make my own bread and yogurt, I use dried beans instead of canned, and the only canned vegetables I buy are tomatoes. (In bulk.) Not only is not buying all that stuff cheaper, I'm also not buying a lot of chemicals and preservatives, I'm not buying a lot of disposable packaging that then sits in a landfill, I'm not giving my hard-earned money to a corporation that already has plenty, I'm not buying a bunch of empty calories, and I get to eat a lot of really healthy, fresh, tasty food. Plus, I eat as much cheese and bacon as my heart desires, and I'm still a size 8.
So all the recipes you see on here are the product of the $200 budget, using whatever I've got on hand. I'm eating all these things. This month I've already spent about $150, replenishing the basics, so I won't be doing any more shopping for at least two more weeks. You guys can help keep me honest.