Sunday, February 5, 2012

Eating on less than $200 a month

I'm in the process of revamping this blog, so hang on. I'll be tweaking the format, changing the pictures, etc., and marketing it much more aggressively. It's about time this thing started paying for itself. So tell your friends!

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.


  1. Love this! I typed in "how to buy food for 2 people for less than $200" and this came up. Google is amazing - and so is your advice!

  2. i feed 2 people on exactly 200 a month and i dont have to do any of that we always eat a meat + 2 sides (at least 4 times a week) breakfast and lunch we buy a lot of lunch meat because our lunches are always sandwiches we dont buy junk food (okay i buy 2 jellos and a pudding mix)and we dont buy sodas but we do drink bottled water...its very easy for me i shop at Save-a-lot most times and last month i had over 40 bucks left on the food budget which got to roll over to this month i think all that corner cutting is a bit extreme

  3. lol i also found this through google. initially i was searching about what i heard on the radio where a woman feeds for 13 people for 200, though i dont remember if it was per month or per week. im totally subbing!

  4. I too found this through Google. My husband and I are both out of work and receive $200 a month in food stamps. I am NOT a loafer! I hold a Master's Degree and a license to teach High School English but have been unable to find a job as of yet. So when the card is empty, so are our stomachs. We are struggling to make ends meet. We have to sell things of value we own to get gas to go to job interviews. I have been on several interviews but have yet to be the chosen candidate for the positions for which I have interviewed. I truly do not know how I would pay for the gas to go to work until I received the first paycheck, but I am sure that we would figure it out if we were blessed with a job. This month we ran out of food and money on the card. We were down to almost nothing at the end of the month. I was gearing up to go to a food pantry when we just decided to wait it out. It is so humiliating to have to humble oneself to go to a food pantry. I do not have money to join a Sam's Club or any other pay club for bulk foods. I already shop at Aldi's because it is the cheapest place I have found for groceries without purchasing a membership. Thank you for your blog. I will work on these suggestions as I am able to make changes. Hopefully I will procure a job soon and will be able to continue to practice these methods and save money on a continuing basis.