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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

LIVING ON $20 A WEEK FOR GROCERIES Part 1

Hello dear friends!  A comment left last week that it was impossible to live on $20 a week for groceries, was  like waving a red flag in front of a bull for me.  I had to step up and take the challenge.   When I wrote that a person could live on $20 a week last week, I meant $20 for one person, so the addition of two more adults is even more of a challenge, but for me, that means more fun.

My guidelines for the challenge were that I assumed we did not have anything at all in the house except running water.  As you all know, I have a massive pantry, do to canning and gardening, and we could probably live a year or more off of it if we needed to, but for the sake of this experiment, I didn't use anything on my pantry shelves or root cellar.  The only items I assumed I had in the house were salt and pepper.  I also didn't shop in any of my usual haunts, such as the salvage and bulk grocery store. Just my regular non-chain  grocery store and a local fruit market.  I didn't go out of my way to find any deals.  Just carefully shopped at these two stores.

Now, before I go any further, I want to say that these meals will not be the most exciting or perhaps they do not meet all of the daily requirements, but I must ask if all of your meals do?  Do you really get nine servings of fresh fruits and vegetables every day?  This is strictly survival eating when money is really tight.  I would say that if this was your budget for a family of three adults for a prolonged amount of time, I would avail myself to some of the community food pantries and soup kitchens.  You would probably qualify for some sort of assistance such as food stamps.  This is just an experiment to see if it can be done.

So here's what I bought and their receipts:

I I measured out 1 pound of my oatmeal that I buy in bulk at 69 cents/lb.
I used my own carrots and potatoes from my root cellar but added the cost to my total.  I used a flyer from our local store for the basis for their prices:
Here's an itemized list of what I bought and how much I spent:

1 pkg. 12 tortillas $1.50
1 block (8 oz.) Cheddar cheese $1.88
3.54 lb. pork sirloin roast with the bone in for 99cents/lb  $3.50
1 pkg. dirt rice $1.69
1 container of organic kale mix (reduced for quick sale) $1.50
1 can (14.5 oz.) fire roasted tomatoes 75 cents (reduced for quick sale)
1 lb. dry kidney beans 75 cents (reduced for quick sale)
bag of 6 oranges $1.29
bunch of bananas 33 cents/lb (reduced for quick sale)
box of 12 taco shells 99 cents
2 pkgs. Jiffy biscuit mix  $1.00
1 lb. carrots $1.50
5 lb. potatoes $3.00
11 oz bottle of barbecue sauce $1.00
1 lb. oatmeal 69 cents/ lb

OK. So I went $1.88 over. Sue me!  I know that the price quoted in the flyer is for the more expensive pre-cut carrots,  regular ones would be cheaper.  A bag of plain rice would have cost less and I would have had more, but I justified the cost  as something to give the bland foods some flavor.  Ditto for the barbecue sauce.  Also, I've seen pinto beans for 50 cents a pound in the dollar stores, but these were the cheapest  beans in this particular store.  So I could have made up that $1.88 if I had really tried.

The Meals

For breakfast, we are eating oatmeal.  Just plain oatmeal because we couldn't afford sugar on this budget.  Sometimes I mashed in half a banana to give it some sweetness.  Plain oatmeal is not my most favorite thing in the world.  I think if I had to eat it for every breakfast, I'd borrow a cup of sugar from my neighbor or give into some petty larceny and start swiping a few packets from the fast food joints. Ha!  When Ran and I were first starting out and desperately poor, my mother-in-law would save all those little packets of sugar, jam, creamers and butter that came from her restaurant meals and give them to us.  You'd be surprised at what a luxury a little jam on toast or creamer in your coffee feels like when you don't have any.  BTW, I did allow the guys to have their morning coffee but did not include it in the grand total.  I went without for the sake of the experiment, but didn't think the guys needed to do that much sacrificing for the sake of my blog.  If we were truly in such a dire situation, I'm sure they would give up their coffee.

February 14:

Lunch:
Pork roast with potatoes and carrots and a small salad.  Since it was Valentine's day I allowed the guys to eat as much as they wanted.  BTW, there were more vegetables then shown.  Normally, they'd only be allowed one serving of meat which is approximately the size of a deck of cards, but I know they both ate at least two servings and I think Jamie ate three.

Dinner:

We were pretty stuffed after our big lunch, so we each had one of these wraps consisting of a small handful of Kale, a bit of grated cheese, and some of the leftover pork cut into strips and simmered in about 1 tablespoon of the  barbecue sauce and 1/4 water, served on a warm tortilla.

Ran ate one of the oranges later in the day.

Prep for the next day:  I saved all of the pan drippings and the potato and carrot peels plus the bone from the roast to make a broth for a basis of soup for one of the days.  I gleaned all the meat from the bone. I had this much meat left on the bones!:

February 15:

Lunch:
Baked up one package of the biscuits and made some more of the barbecued pork which I served over the biscuits.  We also had a small amount of the kale, served with a drizzle of some orange juice and some carrots .  Ran and I ate the remainder of the orange for dessert.  Jamie had the leftover biscuit (he cheated and put some brown sugar and butter on it).

Extreme tightwaddery:

Since I didn't have any grease, I used a piece of a  bakery bag, to line the pan so the biscuits wouldn't stick to the bottom.  I also poured the water from boiling the carrots into the pan the barbecued pork had been heated in and swished it around and poured that water into my broth fixings. And I cut the biscuits with a smaller cutter so it looked like I had more. :)

Prep:

I cooked up the beans.  I added about 1 tablespoon of the barbecue sauce and some of  the fire-roasted tomatoes along with salt and pepper to give them more taste. When they were through cooking, I drained the bean "broth" into a bowl and added it to my broth fixings.

Dinner:
Soup made from the broth, potatoes, carrots, some of the kale finely diced and about 1/3 C of the culled meat from the bones.  And we split a quesadilla made from a bit of the cheese, some beans with barbecue sauce on them.  Both Ran an Jamie had two bowls of soup.

Extreme Tightwaddery:

I didn't have any grease for the griddle to make the quesadilla, so I used some of the grease that I skimmed off the broth after it had sat in the fridge and the fat had solidified  on the top.  Necessity is the mother of invention!

So that's it for day 1 and day 2 of the great tightwad experiment.  Tomorrow Day 3.

Hugs
Jane








59 comments:

  1. You are amazing! I really enjoyed this and look forward to day 3. I love what you bought at the store. Looks very healthy. My husband and I were just wondering how practical it would be to buy (at Costco) for most of the year...jokingly...renting a U-Haul like in the movie "Blast from the Past". But, I know from back when we started our married life...if you are truly on a tight budget, you don't have the extra money up front to take advantage of even the smallest bulk sales! So your challenge is true and honest for a tight budget challenge. (Boy I loved those little jam packets when I was young!) Hugs, Andrea

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    1. Well, it's going to be interesting to see if I make it. Ha! Have to admit that $20 for 3 people is a ridiculous minuscule amount. And I don't know who this person would be that didn't even have a bag of flour in their house. Ha! Starting out with just $20 would definitely be rough. I know about those jam packets! It was always hard to decide what flavor. I still keep those packets of taco sauce that we get from Taco Bell in my fridge.

      Hugs
      Jane

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    2. Oh yes that is ridiculous! lol. I say getting 2 days out of that for 3 people is good because your meals look plentiful! Plus Jamie is young and growing and I know kids at home eat a lot more! Hugs, Andrea

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    3. A lot of beans and potatoes to fill em up! It sure is hard to not go into the pantry and get a bit of brown sugar for that oatmeal and some veggies in the freezer to make the soup thicker. I would not want to live like this forever, but it will probably be good for my waistline. Ha! I already noticed I feel a lot lighter just not eating sweets.

      Hugs
      Jane

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    4. Oatmeal does need a touch of brown sugar. If I gave us sugar I bet I would lose weight! I have progressed to making fruit smoothies w/out sugar. And I patted myself on the back today for not picking up a donut at Walmart! Hugs, Andrea

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    5. I know! I never really understood why people said fruit was sweet. Ha! But after a few days of having no sweets, that orange did indeed taste good to me. Maybe through this experiment I'll learn to love fruits!

      Hugs
      Jane

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    6. Andrea,
      I love the idea in that movie, Blast from the Past. (There are a few ideas and words I don't love, but am old enough to ignore them--I WISH I could show it to my young kids--it's so cute otherwise). I just love how the dad prepares every single thing they could possibly use for 30 years, and doesn't seem to forget a thing. In my world, I'd be sure to realize that I'd left at least one thing "up on top."

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    7. I have been that person without a bag of flour in her kitchen before. We had $754/mo disability income and $85/mo food stamps to feed 2 adults and 1 child (he was 8 when it started). This was back in 1994-1996. I became very creative to feed us healthy and filling meals. Luckily hot dogs and bologna were on-sale monthly 4 packages for $1 and we bought 8 packages of hot dogs and 6 bologna every month. But I would run out of everything eventually. We had a store here that in January they put 20lb bags of potatoes on sale for $0.99 and you could get 2, well I bought 2, my husband bought 2 and our son bought 2, my husband would go back into the store a couple of times while my son and I loaded the rest of the groceries in the car and buy the limit again. We ate a lot of potato soup. But they lasted many months and helped me stretch the $85 farther. I did buy a few more bags of flour and sugar each Nov and Dec as they were a whole lot cheaper and we bought 2 clearance turkeys after Thanksgiving really cheap. Not to mention ham was cheap in December so we bought a few of them. There were many times that we were down to nothing but a couple of cans of veggies and 2-3 hot dogs and 3 days until the next batch of food stamps arrived. My son learned to love mixing cereal at this time because we had 2 types of cold cereal but not enough of 1 for a serving so he would combine them.
      If I had to do that now with $85/mo, it would be really tough. But that time caused me to build a full pantry and stockpile food. I don't want my children to have to go through that experience.

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  2. Your grocery prices are a LOT cheaper than they are down here. It is nice that you also have a full pantry. You are blessed ~ FlowerLady

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    1. I'm sure prices very wherever you go, Rainey. The grocery store I shopped at isn't particularly a low budget store and our prices are elevated here because we are off the beaten track. In the bigger more metropolitan areas we can find even better bargains. And we have more options. You have to work with what you have. A lot of these items came from the reduced for quick sale bin. I imagine that you can find better deals on fruits where you live since many are grown there.The purpose of the experiment isn't to show how much I spent but rather to give ideas on how a budget can really be stretched when needed. Hopefully, you'll find some information of use.

      Hugs
      Jane

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    2. I do shop for deals, and am working on spending less and using what I already have in my cupboards and in the freezer.

      Where I live, is definitely higher priced, especially during the winter when all of the 'snow-birds' come down. I do have an Aldi to shop at, as well as the dollar stores, and a nice veggie market.

      Thanks again for sharing your life ~ you inspire me.

      Love & hugs ~ FlowerLady

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    3. Knowing where to shop is half the battle Rainey. Aldis is wonderful. Wonder if they have the same prices nationwide? They hike the prices up around here for the tourists in the Summer. Guess the merchants think they need to make hay while the sun shines.

      Hugs
      Jane

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  3. So far it all looks so good-can't wait to hear about the rest!

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    1. So far so good Vickie, but I'm afraid by the end of the week, you'll be seeing a lot of beans!

      Hugs
      Jane

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  4. I love your detailed explanations and pictures! Many wives and mothers of today would benefit from learning this type of cooking and making do with what one has to get through the hard times.

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    1. Thank you Mrs. White! BTW, I love reading your blog. You always give me food for thought.

      Hugs
      Jane

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  5. Do you freeze your Cauliflower and Brocolli? I have but find they are not as good as the massive amount of runner beans we freeze every year.When we stop eating them fresh, still have enough to last for 2,3 or 4 people , at least 5 nights a week,for the other 48 weeks or so . I NEVER get tired of beans, thankfully. I probably economise on clothing more than I do on food.Well done for your " Trial Test Week ~ On day 7, you can bowl the wickets all over!!!

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    1. Ha! If I make it Jean! I do freeze some cauliflower and brocolli, we have one of those vacuum sealer gadgets for freezing veggies. Keeps them from getting that freezer-burn taste. Because of my limited freezer space, I can my beans. Freeze beans out of the garden are the best! I could eat them roasted with a little bread to sop of the juice every day of the week. Looking forward to bowling those wickets over!

      Hugs
      Jane

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    2. I meant fresh! My writing of late has been atrocious!

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  6. I'm loving your creativity! This is great info, and I'm looking forward to the coming days.

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    1. I'm kind of interested in finding out how it all ends up too, Laurie. Ha!

      Hugs
      Jane

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  7. I love those kind of challenges! I keeps me thinking. I love the things you've made so far. Good job!

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    1. They are kind of fun, Becky. I've thought up about a half dozen meals, but it will be interesting to see if the food lasts that long.

      Hugs
      Jane

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  8. Enjoyed your post!
    Looking forward to the rest of the week!

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    1. Thanks Annie! I hope by the end of the week I'm not too weak to type it!

      Hugs
      Jane

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  9. Whew! This is extremely fun. You go girl!
    9 years ago, I could feed 6 people (2 adults & 4 kids) on $40 a month. Beans, potatoes, oats, homemade tortillas were my staples.
    Blessings, Leslie

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    1. You need to write a post for me, Leslie, on how you did that! I'm finding that it's a little difficult to start from nothing to feed us, but if I had a small pantry of flour, shortening, yeast, and maybe a few spices, things would go a bit smoother. Overall, I think the meals have been pretty tasty. I'm having fun with the challenge. If you ever want to write a post for this blog let me know!

      Hugs
      Jane

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  10. Oh how I love this kind of challenges! I might be a weirdo, but when things get rough I get energized not depressed.

    Can't wait to see the rest!

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    1. I am the very same way, Miriam! It's sometimes hard to shut down my mind at night because I'm thinking of ways to economize. Last night I was up to wee hours thinking of ways to make a thickener from the meager ingredients I had. I got it! Grind some of the oatmeal to make a flour! Well, stay tuned!

      Hugs
      Jane

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    2. Thanks for the tip!

      There's always something to learn :-)

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  11. Really enjoyed this post. I've just worked out that $20 is £16, that's a really small amount of money or is it?? It's really making me think about my food costs and I love people who make me think :-)

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    1. It is indeed, Ali. Some may say it is an impossible amount to start from scratch from. Basically a little less than a dollar a day per person. That was my aim to make people think, so thank you for your encouragement!

      Hugs
      Jane

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  12. brought back memories, i've been in tight spots in my youth, only going back to the parents when i couldn't stand it any longer lol the parents would tell us some horror stories of trying to scrounge for food, dad reckons a lot of the time you were lucky to get bread & dripping.
    think people need to be encouraged more to grow fruit & nut trees as well as vegies.
    great post, can't wait for the next one
    thanx for sharing

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    1. Hello Selina! Had many tight spots in my youth too. My son started a website when he was in college, on where to find free food; lectures that were handing out sandwiches, clubs that were enticing new members with free coffee and donuts, stores that were handing out free samples. He claimed if you played your cards right, you could go without buying groceries. Other students would write in and tell where they found a handout. It was a very popular site!

      We have a small postage stamp orchard on our 1/2 acre village lot. It doesn't take much room to grow a few fruit trees. We also have a hazelnut bush that gives us approximately six hazelnuts a year. Ha! So it can be done on very little land. If the village allowed chickens, I'd say I'd have a homestead.
      Have a great day!

      Hugs
      Jane

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  13. Hi Jane, I am so enjoying this, wonderful to show what is possible from a seemingly impossible start. Have you heard of a young English lady called Jack Monroe? She has a blog called cooking on a bootstrap which has some amazing and tasty really really cheap recipes, her story is so interesting I feel sure you would love it. Well done Jane and good luck! - Vera

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    1. Hello Vera! No I've never heard of her, but I'll be sure to look into her blog, that does sound like something I would enjoy. Thank you for the suggestion.

      Hugs
      Jane

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    2. I have read Jack Monroe's blog. Really interesting :-) I find those 'Eat for a pound a day' Challenges inspiring.

      http://www.mirror.co.uk/money/meet-woman-who-lives-1-6951458

      Do you know Brandy of The Prudent Homemaker? She feeds her family for very little, but she lives in Las Vegas and gardens year round

      http://theprudenthomemaker.com/

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    3. Hi Miriam! Brandy and I go way back. Being able to garden year-round is a real money saver. In the Summer there are many weeks when I spend nothing on groceries. I have plenty of canned veggies but it is nice to have the fresh ones. Maybe that will be next month's challenge to see if I can only spend $10 a week on produce and eat strictly from my pantry. Thanks for giving me an idea!

      Hugs
      Jane

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  14. I love it! When I was first on my own as a single mom, I often had to buy a week's worth of groceries for about $30-$50 (for 3 people). And this is in New England which is crazy expensive for just about everything, especially food. I became quite adept at stretching the money. It can be done! I still find that the more bare the cupboards, the more creative I become with my cooking. Looking forward to the rest of your experiment. (And I hope at the end of it, there is a big cake or something equally celebratory!
    Cheers,
    Dana

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    1. Hi Dana, as my mother always said, "There's no such word as can't" I'm finding that a lot of it is portion control. You just don't get a big slab of meat, but now potatoes, that you can have until the cows come home. No snacking too. Actually all these things are very good for my health. I'm glad I'm ding this!

      HUgs
      Jane

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  15. I love how you took this a step further going with an empty starting at square one pantry. I would have never thought to look at pork - just would have gone straight for the chicken. And going with bbq sauce as your spice - you taught this old dog a few new tricks.

    Off topic, sharing anyway - we have food pantries, food banks a few soup kitchens and a lot of churches offering a free lunch. Recently, a small restaurant placed a small cabinet/pantry out front of their place with free food and encouraged the locals to take/give. That thing is constantly stocked with rotation. 2 liters of soda even I am hoping for the truly desperate for some sugar.
    Anyway -
    Hugs,
    Jen

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    1. Hi Jen! Yep, pork is a real bargain in the Spring. And a little goes a long way.

      I overhead a woman talking in the thrift store today that they were holding a free pantry, just drive up and they'd put a box of groceries in your car, no questions asked. That's nice that they don't shame people like they used to. That was a wonderful thing for that restaurant to do! I'm finding that this forced giving up of sugar is turning out to be a blessing. I actually feel better after not having any sort of sweeteners for four days. Good thrifty eats!
      Hugs
      Jane

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  16. I really didn't mean it as a challenge (but you go girl!), rather I meant to illustrate that prices can vary wildly, depending where you live.
    I am not in the US, so I've grabbed a sales flyer here to show you what typical grocery SALE prices are here. (I've converted our metric measurements to imperial).
    Sales Flyer Prices:
    12 pkg Cottonelle TP $5.00
    1.9 lbs of cheese $10.00
    2.2lbs bacon $10.00
    Boneless top sirloin beef roast $5.99/lb
    Outside round beef roast $5.99/lb
    Chicken breast $3.49/lb
    1-lb salmon fillet $9.01
    bread, 1.25lb loaf $3.00
    .440 of a pound of Havarti cheese $10.00
    1 lb of butter $4.50
    1.65 lb jar peanut butter $6.49
    12 bars Irish Spring soap $10.00
    10 pkg Neo-Citran cold meds $8.99
    small Campbells mushroom soup $1.00
    Different countries = different cost of living.

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  17. Oh I know you didn't mean it as a dare to me personally, Mrs. Shoes, but I thought it would be a fun challenge to see if I could actually do this. I know prices in Canada (and Europe) are considerably higher, I stayed in Canada for a few weeks and was shocked by the food prices. Hopefully though, even with wildly varying prices some people can learn a trick or two that might save them a few pennies. BTW, looks like I'd have to give up cheese at $5/lbs if I lived across the border. Ha!

    Hugs
    Jane

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    1. Glad I didn't accidentally give offense!
      I really don't understand why our food prices are SO much higher than yours; awfully glad to live on the farm & be able to do as much as we can for ourselves. I really don't know how young families even make it - seems there is little room for the traditional, one breadwinner family with Mom @ home taking care of everything else any more. :-(

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    2. When I was visiting, I noticed that a lot of the produce was imported from New Zealand, which is a lot of travel expenses for an apple. Don't know if this still applies. Very little of our food here in the states is actually imported. Maybe that's why. PLus you have lot of big expanses with little population up there, in our little village groceries cost more because the trucks have to go out of their way to deliver it. Plus you guys might have stricter laws. Who knows? Probably a lot of factors, but I do know, if I lived in your wonderful country, I'd have a garden, just like you!

      Hugs
      Jane

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  18. This grocery challenge is fun, thanks for taking it on Jane.

    Free food can be found in the most interesting places. Our local Habitat for Humanity acts as a clearing house for soon to be expired food. Most days of the week they have bread, vegetables and other perishables. More often than not the bread products are high end organic. Sadly, I am gluten free, so I take some of the bread and pass it on to my daughter and son-in-law. It would be horrible to just toss it out!

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    1. That's a nice way to save money, Anne. If I didn't need to buy fresh vegs and the ingredients to make my own bread, I'd save a lot of money. There's always someway to save, I've found. Our prices may be lower here, but we don't have any such programs as that, so I'd say it all balances out in the end. There's a gal on YouTube, Prepper Princess that claims she never buys and fruit and gets it all free. She's doing an even bugger challenge, living a year on $100! Now that is extreme tightwaddery!

      Hugs
      Jane

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  19. What a great post Jane. Prices are sure different in the US to here. I calculated the cost of your items in our $. Woe we are expensive, for instance I bought 1lb block cheddar yesterday it was $8.99(NZ) $6.(US), Pork IO know to be about
    $6.50 (US) for 1.9 lbs, and that was on special. However I wonder if the cost of living differences are negated by the differences in income levels. I get the basic Superannuation (pension) here, it is $405 ($300USapprox) a week after taxes. You have made me really think about my spending, and I am looking forward to your next few days.
    I can remember as a newly married budgeting for $5 a day for food, and we lived quite well!

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    1. Hi Sharon! One of the blessing of living in the USA, is that our food costs are pretty low compared to other countries. On the other hand, we do not have free healthcare. I have to pay $800 a month for a useless policy and then fork out approximately $150 a month for what it doesn't cover (which is everything). But again, that is dependent upon each state,some states have pretty decent healthcare plans.

      I think your pension is akin to our Social Security. What you receive is dependent upon how much you earned throughout your life and how much you paid in. Poor self-employed folks get zilch, here.

      Whatever the case, I think everyone can benefit from growing their own and canning. So far, so good on the challenge. See you later today!

      Hugs
      Jane

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    2. No wonder your healthcare policies create so much resentment! $800 a month wow! Our Dr visits are $17( for me,) I think it is dearer in some areas), prescriptions $5 each and we have free hospital care and visits and we moan!!!! Now I dont mind that our food is expensive!

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  20. Oh how fun! Love your creativity!
    I did one of those challenges, but it was for $30...we were so tired of beans. :D But it was a good exercise in what I would buy/cook if I had nothing in the house.

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    1. Hi Kathy! We have enough meat thanks to that 99 cents a pound roast, but what I'm discovering is fresh vegetables are hard to afford in the Winter. Thank goodness for gardens!

      Hugs
      Jane

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  21. The blog bluehousejournal.blogspot.com did a $20 challenge too starting Jan 1,2017. Then this month went to a $30 challenge. She also started out like you not using anything she already had ..not even salt or pepper. You might get some inspiration from reading her posts from then and comments to it. I love reading and learning from all of this! J/Jody

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    1. Thanks Jody! I'll look into it.


      Hugs
      Jane

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  22. I am seriously impressed with your menu, creativity and with how little you spent! Great job!

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    1. Well we see how impressive it is by day 7, Debbie!I think by then, we'll be eating a bowl of plain beans. Ha!

      Hugs
      Jane

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  23. Hello Jane,
    I am Terri from Blue House Journal. I did a $20 challenge in January and I am so impressed with what you were able to do with your fund. As one of my readers noted prices vary so much from area to area and from state to state. I priced groceries in stores 30 miles from home. Had I had to rely on my hometown store I'd never have done as well as I did! I plan to follow to see how you do and to garner ideas. The oat flour was something I thought about for the current challenge (February is $30/week). I had read how to make oat flour in an older cookbook and it makes wonderful cookies. I feel it's important we know how to face a crisis period without a pantry. Good job!

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    1. Thanks Terri! The ground oats really made a nice flour, I think. I might try them in some cookies to once this challenge is over. Even on this budget, I see I overpaid for the carrots, they were the same price for 2# in another store and I don't think the rice mix or the tortillas were any great sale. If I would have shopped my usual stores, we'd be living like royalty, but just wanted to show people that it's what you buy that matters in managing a small budget.

      Been meaning to get over to your blog, but have been bogged down in canning the last few days. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with others. We can all learn together!

      Hugs
      Jane

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