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Family fed on $100 a month

You may not be able to save as much on food as this blogger does, but many of her tips apply to everyone.

By Karen Datko Jan 22, 2013 1:55PM

Image: Peppers (© imageDJ/Jupiterimages)Can a family of four -- Mom, Dad and a teenage boy and girl -- eat for $100 a month? Brandy Eldridge, who blogs as "Mavis Butterfield" at One Hundred Dollars a Month, says that's what her family does, and she posts weekly updates and photos as proof.


Back in 2008, she was spending $814 a month on food. In a year she cut it to $632 "by being more mindful of sales and unit prices," says an article in The Seattle Times. The following year, she was at $417.


Most frugalists would probably call it quits at that point. That's about $100 a month for each of four people -- a very respectable accomplishment.


"In 2011, with the extreme couponing movement gaining steam, Eldridge made it her mission to spend just $100 per month on groceries," the Times story said. "She met that goal, did it again in 2012, and plans to do the same this year."


However, Eldridge wrote that she burned out on extreme couponing in 2011 because of the massive amount of time spent and the processed food her efforts bought. "As I headed into 2012 I decided to dust off my garden tools, and try something new. I set a goal to grow 2,000 pounds of food in our backyard," she wrote on her blog. Her goal is to double the amount of homegrown fruits and vegetables this year. (Knock on wood for agreeable weather.)


Some of her methods are very specific to her lifestyle. She's a professional blogger with a knack for publicity who doesn't work outside the home.

  • Big garden. CNN says she works 12 raised-bed gardens and a greenhouse on 1.25 acres. Since Eldridge lives in Gig Harbor, Wash., she has the benefit of a moderate climate and lots of rain.
  • Barter. For instance, she trades produce or surplus store-bought staples with families that hunt wild game. While deer is what's for dinner where I live, that won't work for city dwellers. 
  • Freebies. The example in the story is a free $20 grocery credit for each $100 spent on Home Depot gift cards. She also gets free boxes of unsold produce weekly from a local market, ostensibly for her chickens, but her family also benefits. 

Much of the rest of her advice is pretty normal stuff that anyone can duplicate: Compare unit prices, stock up when your staples go on sale periodically, use coupons (and no doubt stack them with sales whenever you can) and stick to your list. Another crucial aspect is cooking from scratch.

Her blog -- which is a mix of food shopping and gardening updates, recipes, craft ideas, and affiliate links -- includes a year-to-date accounting of how much she's spent on food and garden supplies.


What does she do with the money she saves? One example: "Actually my daughter and I just got back from a trip to Europe paid for by not shopping at the grocery store," she told KOMO 4 News.


This is not the only blog dedicated to drastically reducing spending on food, but it's among the most balanced, sustainable approaches we've seen.


A Midwest blogger spent only $30 for food for one month and dropped 10 pounds in the final seven days, subsisting on a diet of about 500 calories per day. This blogger turned down all free-food invitations and didn't eat anything already in the house before the month began.


A blogged named Jeffrey embarked on a "Eating Well on $1 a Day" Challenge in 2010, with coupons as a major component of his strategy. "I bought $597.96 worth of food and other stuff for $27.08 during the month," he wrote


My favorite account was by Rebecca Currie on Less Is Enough, who found that Jiffy biscuit mix plus more healthy foods bought from bulk bins kept her sufficiently fueled during her Dollar a Day project in 2009. It was widely covered in the media, including an appearance on Rachael Ray's show.


These were experiments to see what eating on a tiny food budget would be like -- and all those involved were glad when they came to an end. But there were still lessons learned, Currie said, like reducing portion size and not letting food go to waste.


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Jan 22, 2013 3:27PM
Jan 22, 2013 3:27PM
All the prep crap is happening because of the current regime and their inability to function properly.  Their agenda is working so we'll see more and more articles of survival like this as time rapidly progresses the next four years.  No money, no food, no ammo, no guns and no freedom.
Jan 22, 2013 3:24PM

Most staples are remarkably inexpensive and many can be bought in bulk for even more savings.  Fruits and vegtables can be reasonably priced when bought in season, raised yourself and canned or frozen. 

I see nothing wrong with someone doing these things.  After all it takes time and energy.  Something the welfare crowd would never consider doing.  Good for this woman.

Jan 22, 2013 3:22PM
And now back to the big bash in DC, I'm glad somebody's not in need & having fun on my dime!!! LOL
Jan 22, 2013 3:21PM
This story is kind of stupid, in my opinion. How much money was spent on Home Depot merchandise to get those $20 grocery cards? And how much money was spent on building her 1.25 acre greenhouse and 12 raised beds? This isn't a story of savings, because she didn't actually save anything. The grocery money just went elsewhere.
Jan 22, 2013 2:36PM
How about those of us who live in a concrete and steel jungle and have no place to grow food?

All of these "frugal" ideas are great. Lets get to the real issue......JOBS.  Companies put ads for employment out everyday and the job goes unfilled no matter what anyone does.

This is why people have to make these decisions.  Should not be this way.

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